Re-opening Moseley-Camp Hill railway a job for WMCA, say Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats are urging the new West Midlands Combined Authority to show leadership by heading up a campaign to get trains running again along a disused Birmingham railway line.
A pledge to open the Moseley to Camp Hill line to connect with Moor Street Station is contained in the Lib Dem manifesto for the city council elections a week today.
The party argues that re-opening Moseley station, which closed to passenger traffic in 1941, would create a new rapid transit corridor through the congested south of Birmingham, reducing traffic on the roads, improving bus and vehicle reliability and allowing improved access to public transport for thousands of people.
It’s an idea that has been floated many times before, but has failed to secure financial support or the backing of Network Rail.
The manifesto accuses the Labour-controlled city council of doing little to get the Camp Hill-Mosley line re-open and argues that the West Midlands Combined Authority, which will have responsibility for regional transportation, is the body capable of pushing forward with the project:
This is an issue of leadership as much as money and an opportunity for the new West Midlands Combined Authority. It requires the interests of Network Rail to be aligned with those of the city.
Network Rail must understand it is a priority. Work on this project is so underdeveloped that there are no clear costs – figures of about £200 million have been quoted recently, and, even if it were to be this much, as the cost of a major transport project, this compares well with taking road space for a metro line.
The Liberal Democrats are the last of the political parties to launch a manifesto for the council elections. Party leader Tim Farron was in Birmingham a month ago to launch his party’s campaign, but today a spokesman insisted that Mr Farron merely issued a “themes document” which has now been superseded by a full manifesto.
Voters in Birmingham go to the polls on May 5. The Liberal Democrats have 11 out of 120 councillors at the moment. Labour has 78, Conservative 30, and there is one Independent.
The Liberal Democrats have three priorities:
- Tackling fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour
- Improving recycling
- Building stronger neighbourhoods.
The document also calls on the council to introduce “21st century technology to manage traffic”.
Liberal Democrat group leader Jon Hunt said:
In the last four years there has been much talk about investment in transport – and even elaborate strategies published – but there has been an utter lack of clarity about what are the priorities. Indeed the word ‘transport’ does not even appear in Labour’s manifesto for Birmingham.
Meanwhile the city’s roads are ever more congested and the gridlock is made worse by a proliferation of traffic lights. Cars and buses sit at junctions where nothing seems to move because there is no control of the traffic.
Rather than continually redesigning junctions, we think it is time the city and the West Midlands started looking to the future and investing in smart traffic control systems.
We also think it is time the city stated unambiguously that the Moseley rail project is its priority. It will deliver huge benefits and will be significantly easier to deliver than Metro projects.
Ten years ago the then regional minister Liam Byrne challenged regional leaders to state one or two priorities for transport and investment. We need to see the same clarity from the new West Midlands Combined Authority as it has been sadly lacking up to now.
Cllr Hunt continued:
Our traffic management systems are out-dated and suffer from a notable lack of investment in IT. This is notable in everything from speed cameras to traffic lights.
The important thing is to invest in future-proofed systems that, for instance, will be able to cope with the introduction of driverless vehicles. We would expect pilot schemes at some ‘smart junctions’. In many areas a little investment in IT will be more effective than spending millions on the road infrastructure.
The document attacks Labour’s record on recycling, refuse collection and street cleaning:
The Labour leadership of the council has ruined neighbourhoods through petty cuts. Fly-tipping is rife and other kinds of anti-social behaviour are on the increase.
However difficult the times, we should all be able to have pride in our city. Litter strewn streets and dumping on every corner strips our city of its pride.
In just one year reports of fly-tipping in Birmingham have doubled – and in five years they have trebled. On average 100 incidents are now reported daily.
The Liberal Democrats say if they ran the council they would:
- Scrap the annual £35 charge for household green waste collection
- Restore one free household bulk collection a year
- Buy mobile CCTV cameras that can be deployed to fly-tipping sites.
There’s also a pledge to halt a £1.5 million cut to street cleaning.
The Liberal Democrats claim Labour is planning “huge savings” in the community libraries budget for 2019 which will mean “significant closures”.
The manifesto adds:
We would support the modernisation of libraries – but propose that they take a role at the heart of our communities. Modernisation should not mean closure.
The Liberal Democrat spending proposals would cost £28 million by 2020. The party says the money can be found from an “excessive” £90 million contingency fund set up by Labour.
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