Archives for category: Transport

Connectivity, though identified as such in the Midlands Connect strategy report,  is not the greatest transport problem

The Midlands Connect Partnership and the Department for Transport have developed a transport strategy that identifies the major infrastructure projects needed to improve the connectivity of the region’s key locations and drive economic growth, but it omits any reference to waterway passenger and freight potential. 

Its ‘Final Strategy’ paper (left, March) has no canal or waterway references, 12 to congestion and only one to air pollution.

Sir John Peace, the current Chair of Standard Chartered plc and Burberry Group plc, has been appointed as Chair of the Midlands Engine and will continue to chair Midlands Connect. As his experience is in financial services and retailing, he needs to draw on the wealth of experience in organisations such as Freight for London, the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) and the Canals and River Trust (CRT). Though employment opportunities abound in the inland waterway transport sectors in India, Uganda, South Sudan and continental Europe, according to online advertisements, Midlands Connect appears to be unaware of the transport potential of waterways. 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor, reported years ago that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade because of gridlock on the motorways according to a new study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”. What has changed?

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found. All valid points today. 

The CRT report, Transport energy, planning for inland waterways freight, records evidence given to the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs Committee (ETRAC) 38 suggesting that there is significant traffic potential. One barge company claimed that, “without trying at all”, there was half a million tonnes of freight that could be transferred from road transport and that the Aire & Calder Navigation could quite easily take 2,000 lorries a day off local roads.

To create a more comprehensive strategy, Sir John Peace and the partnership could co-opt a number of people with the right expertise. One of many is Tim West of Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd. He was consulted about low bridges restricting the ability of the inland waterways to accommodate some cargo on certain stretches and replied that his firm has been able to carry large abnormal loads to locations such as Worcester, Leeds, Nottingham, Rotherham, York, Preston and Manchester. The Inland Navigator (above) sailed down the River Ouse carrying a transformer to Drax power station, avoiding a possible 15 mile tailback on the motorways.

London’s River Bus Express (above) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities. The city is also moving large amounts of water and construction materials by water.

The CRT report points out that it is Government policy to promote alternatives to road transport for both passenger and freight movements, partly to reduce congestion and partly to reduce the environmental impact of road transport.  

Inland waterways have the potential to assist in both these objectives.

 

 

 

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Will passengers continue to face the removal of seats – and toilets – to enable more to stand sardine-fashion in West Midlands trains? Abellio promises standing room for 50,000 extra people on shorter rail journeys.

The West Midlands rail franchise has been awarded to a joint venture between East Japan Railway Company, Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co and Abellio –  the Dutch state rail operator’s international arm – which has a 70.1% stake. The nine-year contract will begin services on December 1.

London Midland reports to the Department for Transport but trains running only in the West Midlands area will now be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a consortium of 16 local councils.

Undertakings made on Abellio’s website

  • Nearly £1bn invested in services on the network over the course of the franchise with £700m of this going into investment in new and refurbished trains. 400 new carriages will be rolled out by 2021.
  • 20,000 extra rush hour seats for people in Birmingham and 10,000 for people in London. On top of this, standing room for 50,000 extra people in Birmingham, in metro style carriages for shorter cross-city journeys;
  • £70m invested in new and existing depots to improve train reliability;
  • Over £60m invested in station improvements, delivering over 1,000 new car parking spaces and over 2,500 cycle parking spaces. This is alongside new and refurbished waiting rooms, more seats at stations, and feasibility studies into developing new stations in the West Midlands;
  • A greater choice of travel options for passengers thanks to the introduction of new Sunday services by 2021. This includes services from Birmingham to Shrewsbury and between Bedford and Bletchley;
  • Greater provision of passenger information, with audio visual displays on all trains by the end of 2019, as well as 800 new digital screens across the network;
  • Free WI-FI on all trains by the end of December 2019;
  • The creation of over 900 new apprenticeships over the course of the franchise, with existing staff benefitting from a £13m investment in staff training and development; and
  • An investment of £1.25m into community rail initiatives.

Abellio promises, on its website, that this investment will bring significant improvements to the network. By the end of the franchise, space will have been created for 85,000 more passengers to travel to London and Birmingham during rush hour, with hugely improved stations and the widespread introduction of smart ticketing.

 

 

 

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A reader alerts all to National Express West Midlands’ review of Birmingham’s bus network. Here we focus on proposals in one area:

Its website says that traffic is getting worse, making journeys slower. Some routes are now 10 minutes slower than they were three years ago. This means fewer passengers, which is bad for the economy and social inclusion. Some might switch to cars, making congestion and pollution worse.

INITIAL IDEAS FOR FURTHER CONSULTATION, WHICH RUNS UNTIL 21 AUGUST 2017, INCLUDE:

Route 27 may not operate and could be replaced in some areas by changes to other routes, some of which may be run by other operators. This is particularly disturbing in that if this proposal goes ahead, it will leave a significant part of Bournville without any public transport. There would be no link up with Bournville Railway station which is a common stop for commuters from parts of Bournville who daily use the 27 to get to and from the railway station.

Stirchley and Bournville residents working in Northfield or visiting the banks and shopping centre there would also feel the impact of the loss of the 27, the only direct service.

Bournville Conservative Party has set up a petition to be submitted to National Express West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands: http://www.bournvilleconservatives.com/save-the-27-bus?t=1

One main route is proposed on the Pershore Road – the  76 being diverted to serve Cartland Road and Pineapple Road instead of Dogpool Lane.

Maypole and Shirley readers need to consider the impact of merging routes 2 & 3

There would be only one route 3 with all buses running via Stoney Ln in Sparkbrook, and Trittiford Rd, Priory Rd, School Rd, Ravenshill Rd and Priory Rd to the Slade Lane terminus.

Would the proposal to run route 49 via Highters Heath Ln, School Rd and Yardley Wood Rd between Maypole Ln and Solihull Lodge compensate?

All South Birmingham residents are invited to take part in a consultation: click this link to be taken to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/southbirminghambuses

 

 

 

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Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.

 

 

 

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MARGARET FAIRHEAD RBSA: Exhibition in Reception Foyer

Canal views – Farmer’s Bridge Flight, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

Until Friday 7 July

Margaret’s remarkable exhibition of works featuring manipulated machine stitching incorporating a variety of fabrics, threads and techniques, is inspired by a walk along the Farmer’s Bridge Flight section of the canal towpath. This journey took Margaret through both old and new Birmingham, passing thirteen locks in all.

At ​the BIRMINGHAM & MIDLAND INSTITUTE ​9 Margaret Street, Birmingham. B3 3BS

 

 

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An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.

 

 

 

 

 

Employees at Blythe Valley Park in Solihull can now use a free shuttle bus from Solihull and Birmingham International to and around this business park. The colourful, eye-catching shuttle bus service is operated by Solihull-based transport service provider LandFlight, formerly known as Silverline. It runs 16 daily shuttles, each accommodating up to 60 people, between the park and the two rail stations.

Deborah Fennell, park manager at Blythe Valley Park, said: “This bus service not only helps us reduce our collective carbon footprint but also ensures that parking demands continue to be met without impacting on the space and facilities we can offer businesses. By providing complimentary and convenient connections between the park and nearby rail stations, we encourage visitors and employees at the park to use public transport for their commute.”

The owners of the park, IM Properties, introduced this service to encourage park employees to commute via public transport. Approximately 2,700 people working for the park’s 24 companies and more will come on as site continues to develop.

Water taxi used in Leeds, advocated for use between Icknield Port and the congested, polluted Birmingham city centre:

Canal or riverside business and industrial parks are able to take another measure to reduce air pollution and ease traffic congestion by extending the use of water buses for passengers, already operating in a number of cities (above), and larger vessels for bulky freight (below).

In Trafford Park which has transport links by road, rail, water and air, businessman Graham Dixon advocates using Manchester’s waterways rather than clogging up the road network with cargo. He has welcomed the first arrival – a 2300 tonne ship, RMS Duisburg, which brought two large silos from Germany, bound for a Manchester factory.

Dixon’s ultimate vision is for Esprit’s Trafford Docks which he has re-opened and refitted, to be busy once again, bringing bulk goods such as road salt, aggregates, grain and biomass via the Manchester Ship Canal into Manchester. This would remove many lorries from the surrounding roads, reducing congestion and pollution.

As he said: “If one ship brings 3000 tonnes of freight up the canal, that’s over 100 lorry journeys removed from the roads, requiring only the first and the final few miles to be carried by lorry instead of potentially hundreds of miles.”

In 2016, though the price of oil was low, average bus fares rose three times faster than the consumer prices index. The statistics report presented by government for 2015/6 was precise: “Between March 2011 and March 2016, the average annual percentage change in bus fares was 3.8% higher than the average annual rate of inflation (2.3%)”. Families who can’t afford a car can find travelling by bus costs more than taking a taxi.

Theresa May: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives” (first speech as leader)

But reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people actually have less control:

  • Without accessible or affordable transport, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families will be less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
  • Some feel compelled to go into debt to buy cars they wouldn’t need if bus services were reliable and affordable..

Due to government funding cuts, town hall chiefs have announced that councils have been forced to reduce bus services by more than 12% in the past year.

They  are calling on the Government to fully fund the Concessionary Fares scheme, and for the devolution of the £250m Bus Service Operators Grant scheme that refunds some of the fuel duty incurred by operators of registered local bus services. The grant was kept at 81% until April 2012, when it was reduced by 20%. The current payment rate is the lowest ever percentage since the rebate’s inception in the 1960s.

Theresa May: “When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody”.

But government actions belied these fine words; her chancellor announced a fuel duty freeze whichhe saidwill cost taxpayers a predicted £850m in the first year alone and really help the ‘fortunate few’ running the largest cars, not the JAM families.

 

 

 

 

Exol Lubricants, based in the West Midlands and Yorkshire, won an Award of Excellence from the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) for its commitment to the waterways. It was presented to Exol sales director and IAAF CV Committee chairman Steve Dunn at the Freight Transport Association Multimodal awards in front of more than 600 guests.

Exol has become a recognised user of the waterways, investing in this environmentally-friendly alternative to transport large loads. There is a practical advantage to using one barge rather than 25 lorries: as they have to test the arriving oil before it is unloaded, one barge load is easier to test than 25 lorry loads.  

Waterways transport is part of the company’s larger strategy to reduce its carbon footprint: something it is keen to promote to students on Aston University’s career and placements programme in which Exol is a partner.

The CBOA said it recognises Exol’s vision, commitment and good business sense in introducing a new barge, Exol Pride, to the North East waterways to transport raw materials from the port of Hull to its bulk-blending plant at Rotherham, Yorkshire. David Lowe, CBOA chairman, said: “The Award of Excellence – CBOA’s highest honour – acknowledges Exol’s significant contribution towards developing inland waterway transport in the UK and promoting this means of shipping within its industry. Many congratulations to the company.”

Left to right: David Gower (host, former English cricket captain), Steve Dunn Exol Sales Director, Dr David Quarmby CBE (CBOA  ), and Mark Field, Marketing Manager

Steve Dunn, Exol Lubricants sales director, said: “This continued investment in the waterways is part of our larger strategy of reducing our carbon footprint and exploring ways to protect the environment. We’re delighted to receive such prestigious recognition from CBOA and will continue to develop our contribution to barge transport.”

Exol is the largest independent lubricants company in the UK, manufacturing and supplying a range of lubricants and associated products to the automotive, commercial vehicle, agricultural, industrial, off highway and railway sectors from its bulk-blending plant in Rotherham.

 

 

 

 

Hannah Green’s Chamberlain Files April Fool article boomerangs. Informed readers would indeed welcome the news that National Express has launched a West Midlands canal bus relieving congestion – following the precedent set by other cities.

London’s River Bus Express (below) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities.

In Leeds, a pioneering free water taxi scheme has been made permanent. The boats, which can carry up to 11 passengers, are being paid for by Allied London, the company that owns Leeds Dock – formerly Clarence Dock. Read more here.

The Amsterdam-style service – trialled at the recent Leeds Waterfront Festival – takes passengers from Leeds Dock to Granary Wharf and back. While currently operating on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only, the taxis could become a daily fixture running 7am-7pm.Simon Tipple, who drives one of the boats, which take about seven minutes to cover the route, said: “The south entrance to the railway station is opening soon. Once that happens you’ll be able to get straight off the train and onto the water taxi. It’s quicker than walking, it’s quicker than being in the car. There’s a lot of flats, a lot of commuters in the dock area.”

“We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”, said the owner Steven Cadwell.

The Manchester Evening News reports that on November 7th a water taxi service was launched, connecting Manchester city centre with Sale and Old Trafford along the Bridgewater Canal. Two Waxi boats – sadly built in Shanghai not Manchester – take passengers from Dukes 92 in Castlefield to the Trafford Centre, morning and evening, Mondays to Fridays –the first water taxi service in operation in Greater Manchester. More boats will be acquired as the business develops.

Waxi was founded by entrepreneur Steven Cadwell (above) who originally wanted a service that ran from the city centre to MediaCityUK, but had to look at other options because of the construction of the Ordsall Chord which is due to be completed in 2017. Cadwell said:

“It’s something that will appeal to a lot of people who want a different way to travel to work or to football matches. We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”. 

Birminghams canals are a neglected and underused resource; clean waterway transport should be integrated into plans for canalside residential, retail and office developments. Some have suggested water taxis sailing from the Icknield Port development into the city centre.

One precedent is the dedicated waterbus service (above, pink) operated by Sherborne Wharf Heritage Narrow Boats, stopping at Brindleyplace, King Edwards Wharf, Gas Street Basin and The Mailbox. But like most waterway vessels currently used, though it is more fuel-efficient and potentially takes traffic of congested roads, it produces some noise and air pollution.

We would recommend the hydrogen fuelled model (above) developed as part of the Protium Project at the University of Birmingham.

David Lowe (CBOA) adds: there are passenger boats in Glasgow, on Loch Lomond, and in Spalding and on the Lancaster canal.