Beware! Bus showcase scheme
Shiny new bus showcase scheme packages are quite appealing on the outside but sometimes they can be a right Pandora's can of worms.
True, these schemes do mean new bus shelters, buses, bus lanes and bus priority at traffic signals, and these are exactly what we need to encourage people to ditch their cars and travel by bus. However, often they entail a series of road improvement and road widening works involving the destruction of trees and the demolition of buildings.
But you can't widen a round and then expect benefit to accrue solely to buses; all traffic takes advantage of the extra space. Thus the comparative advantage of faster and more reliable bus journeys is cancelled out by faster and more reliable car journeys. This encourages yet more car journeys, generating even more traffic, so we just end up back where we started, except now with a wider road and a lousier environment.
Route 96/97 through east Birmingham is currently being given the showcase treatment. The principle of the whole thing is very welcome, but as I travelled along this route the other day, I was horrified to see a that the road was already being widened threatening the demolition of some houses and removal of trees and grass verge between Station Road Stechford and Stuarts Road, Yardley.
Consultation on road improvement works associated with bus showcase schemes takes place with local residents and local councillors, but unfortunately organisations like ourselves often don't get wind of these exercises until it's too late. In the case of the Hagley Road scheme, even the people living on the road didn't get to hear about it until they were told by local campaigners , and the ensuing furore resulted in the consultation having to be started all over again!
Sadly, it's too late now to do much about route 96/97, but we must remain vigilant about future schemes and make sure we spot them in time. If you get to hear of any road works connected with bus showcase schemes near to you, don't be fooled by the innocuous looking 'showcase' packaging and please let us know. You may find you have a destructive road widening scheme to deal with!
More information on this and other bus showcase schemes can be found at Birmingham City Council's website www.birmingham.gov.uk/transport and our own transport campaign page.