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Bus-free Birmingham city centre gets High Court approval

Bus-free Birmingham city centre gets High Court approval

🕔08.Nov 2012

One man’s battle to get buses back into Birmingham’s central shopping area has been defeated at the High Court.

Campaigner Robin Clarke was seeking a judicial review into the Transport Secretary’s decision to approve a £75 million city centre extension of the Midland Metro tram system, arguing that there were “extreme deficiencies” in public consultation about the impact the scheme would have.

He told the High Court in Birmingham of widespread anger over the re-routing of buses to accommodate the Metro extension from Snow Hill to New Street Station.

Buses can no longer travel along Corporation Street, Upper Bull Street and Stevenson Street. Passengers must use special “interchanges” a five minute walk away at Snow Hill/Colmore Row, Paradise Circus/Broad Street, New Street Gateway, Markets, Moor Street/Carrs Lane and Bull Street/Priory Queensway.

Mr Clarke claimed the new arrangements were introduced by bus companies, the Passenger Transport Authority Centro, and Birmingham City Council without any proper attempt to inform passengers or ask for their opinion. “It wouldn’t have been a daunting task to just go along to the bus stops and ask people,” Mr Clarke added.

Centro, the city council and the Department for Transport were involved in an “internal stitch-up” and had used improper procedures, he added. When challenged about what would happen to the buses Centro had used “persistent misinformation”, Mr Clarke claimed.

He said it was wrong to use large sums of public money on a tram extension when Birmingham City Council was being forced to find £600 million in Government spending cuts. The money would be better spent delivering essential services.

The application for a judicial review was rejected by Mr Justice Silber, who pointed out that the request had been lodged outside of the three-month time limit for legal action.

But Mr Justice Silber added that, irrespective of the late submission, none of the arguments put forward by Mr Clarke could not be substantiated.

The Department for Transport, Centro and the city council had behaved correctly throughout and there had been “no error in public law”.

Mr Justice Silber pointed out that Mr Clarke’s application, if approved, would have had serious implications for the DfT and Centro. Bus stops have already been removed from Corporation Street and £4 million has been spent on preparing the Metro extension.

In addition, Centro has spent £93 million on a new viaduct at Snow Hill and £41 million on new trams for the extension.

The Department for Transport and Centro were clearly taking no chances at the hour-long hearing, with a legal team of two barristers and solicitors. Mr Clarke, from Ladywood, who represented himself, was praised by Mr Justice Silber for “the clear way in which you have put the case forward”.

The city council says the Metro extension has major significance. Cabinet member for development, jobs and skills, Coun Tahir Ali, said: “We believe the reorganisation of bus services, together with the Metro extension, a rebuilt New Street Station and a new John Lewis store can help underpin economic growth and job creation.”

The changes have also been welcomed by Retail Birmingham chairman Jonathan Cheetham who said the new arrangements for buses were supported by shopkeepers.

After the hearing, Mr Clarke said: “They didn’t appear to listen  to a word I said.”

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