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Birmingham Mobility Action Plan gets guarded welcome from business groups

Birmingham Mobility Action Plan gets guarded welcome from business groups

🕔31.Jan 2014

A plan to improve public transport and ease congestion on Birmingham roads has been welcomed by business lobby groups as a strong starting point for a much-needed debate on mobility and connectivity

The Birmingham Mobility Action Plan (BMAP) correctly identifies key problems facing the transport network and is right to look at advances in technology as potential solutions, according to BPS Birmingham and Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC).

However,  the two organisations argue that more work is needed to make bus, rail and tram travel a feasible option for most people.

The groups also express concern about the possible imposition of a workplace parking levy, which they warned could harm businesses and put investment and jobs at risk.

The BMAP, drawn up by Birmingham City Council, puts forward ways of improving connectivity while advancing road safety and reducing congestion.

It warns there is a danger that Birmingham will grind to a halt if more people are not persuaded to leave their cars at home and travel to work by public transport instead.

Ideas put forward include:

  • Imposing a £344 a year tax on each workplace parking space in Birmingham.
  • Asking the Government for permission to impose a French-style transport tax on firms with more than nine employees, using the money raised to improve infrastructure.
  • Increasing long-stay parking charges in Birmingham city centre to deter commuters from using their cars.

The overall aim of the mobility plan is to reach a position where residents are able to access anywhere in the city by public transport within 45 minutes.

In a response to formal consultation on the BMAP, BPS Birmingham undertook a survey of its members resulting in 50 detailed responses and staged a round table policy discussion while GBCC consulted businesses and other Midland Chambers on the issue.

The two groups said the absence of costs and timelines in the first version of the plan meant they were not yet able to assess whether the proposed improvements in public transport will be in place to offer safe and reliable alternatives to existing transport means.

They also called for the BMAP to be further developed as a West Midlands-wide strategy.

Alex Bishop, chair of BPS Birmingham, commented: “The plan is right to seek to reduce unnecessary car traffic in the city centre. For many of our younger members, attitudes and behaviours around the car are already changing, but more needs to be done to make the city fully accessible by public transport.

“A workplace parking levy will not bring that about and could put investment and jobs at risk. We support much of the analysis and many of the ideas in the Plan and we look forward to helping to build upon it with an even more ambitious way forward.”

Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said local authorities across the West Midlands should look at larger-scale regional models such as the Northern Hub – a £44 million partnership with Network Rail that seeks to transform local train services in Greater Manchester.

Mr Blackett said: “BMAP represents an important step in the development of a sustainable transport vision. But GBCC would like the work of BMAP to be developed further so that the West Midlands can look at the larger-scale regional models such as the Northern Hub. Acting regionally helps to secure larger amounts of Treasury funding.”

The business groups also support the need to develop more train and tram options to access the city centre as well as avoiding the centre for cross city journeys.

But they have expressed reservations about the use of the Bus Rapid Transit system –the Sprint –rather than wider expansion of the Metro. Expanding public transport options for key areas of the city such as Edgbaston, Harborne, Moseley and Kings Heath – including through the re-opening of old train lines – is encouraged by the Chambers and BPS Birmingham.

Mr Blackett added: “The private sector is not opposed to contributing towards an ambitious transport plan but we need to ensure that other funding options are explored more fully and that both employers and employees are offered alternative means of transport. Birmingham’s BIDs, including Colmore Business District, prove that firms will choose to invest if the objectives are clear, the results are tangible and business retains an ownership of the solutions.”

The BMAP can be viewed here.

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