The New Year brought another meeting the Partner Engagement Group at Centro. As I have explained in a previous blog what these are and what Centro is, I wont go into great detail about this on this occasion.

This meeting touched on a number of issues including Centro‘s budget for the forthcoming year, Birmingham City Council‘s Birmimgham Mobility Action Plan, and London Midland gave a presentation on their latest news.

We kicked off by talking about Centro‘s budget.  This is under pressure (as with all budgets these days) because the Councils which fund Centro have cut the funding to the body.  This means that they are are having to look to make savings.  The proposals included dropping or charging the free add-on for pensioners in the West Midlands so they can use the train, reducing the subsidy for child concenssionary fares, and reducing or cutting Dial-a-ride services.

These are not the only proposals, but are the ones discussed at the meeting. Apparently, ITA Chair John McNicholas and other ITA members have had a lot of lobbying on behalf of pensioners, but less on behalf of children in terms of the concessionary fares. Schools were contacted but apprently didn’t respond. The point was made that schools are quite busy and attempts should be made again. 

The other thing to bear in mind is that there’s no-one sticking up for school children. This can only be bad news for them. The middle class kids, whose parents can’t afford (or don’t want to pay for) increased fares, will end up being driven to school, with all the extra congestion that that will cause, whilst the poorer kids will have to walk or simply won’t be able to get to school. John McNicholas said they were trying to account of people’s views but also didn’t want to just react to who shouts loudest.

Next we moved onto a presentation from Birmingham City Council on theBirmimgham Mobility Action Plan. You can find out a bit more what’s in it as well as what we think, in this article, so I wont go into that detail again.  I did ask the question about reducing the need to travel, and received a less than convincing response about how we couldn’t supress the need to travel. It’s not about surpression, it’s about reducing people having to make journeys, rather than reducing people wanting to make journeys.

After that the final main agenda item was a presentation from London Midland on how they’re doing. Apparently the news is that reliability is getting better, which will probably be news to many on the Cross-City Line. They’re other news is that training new drivers to reduce shortages, and are buying new trains so they can have more on the Cross-City Line to have 3 trains an hour to Redditch.

After that we wrapped up the remaining items on the agenda, and finished at what I think is a record 7.30pm!