Commuting into and out of Birmingham City Centre for work – you could get out of the car of course!

Paul Fielding
Divisional Director

Ok, the title is there to draw you in and deliberately so. This is because I am on a personal crusade to get you workers in the city centre, those that really don’t need to drive, to consider getting out of the car. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see that the traffic in and around Birmingham has got progressively worse over the last few months largely as a result of works going on in and around the city. I’m not knocking these works at all as they will all benefit our great city in the long term, but in the short term it’s misery if you’re in the car. I recently visited the Urban Traffic Management Control Centre at Lancaster Circus and couldn’t believe the scale of the problem. There are literally hundreds of thousands of cars travelling in and out at peak times and it’s getting worse. One minor accident and chaos ensues (hopefully a video of some sort will follow at some point so you can see just how bad it really is).

Personally, I avoid driving into Birmingham if I can. I travel from Solihull, which is just 10 miles down the road. I, like any business person, have to drive in from time to time and it takes me well over an hour to get here if I do. I know a lot of people who can run quicker than that! I’m not here to preach to you but if, like me, you hate sitting in the car, getting road rage at the smallest thing as you’re fighting for space on the road, is there a regularly reliable alternative? I believe that the alternatives are, most of the time, better than driving.

Birmingham has excellent public transport options.  There are plenty of bus services running throughout the city; you probably only live a few minutes from a bus stop, making it an extremely convenient way to travel.  There is also a good train and metro service which, if you live near a stop, is not only convenient, but a fast way to travel into the city.

If you prefer a more active approach, you can cycle or, if you live close to the city, walking is a great option.  I appreciate the weather can be daunting at times, but I think there are other, more significant barriers.  I believe there needs to be much better cycle parking available and improved routes for cyclists to encourage people onto their bikes.  Whilst these are barriers, I don’t see them as insurmountable.

Whilst there are disadvantages to all of the alternatives to the car, I can’t help but think that the advantages aren’t promoted enough to those who work in the centre. Most of the time, it is much, much easier for example to jump on a bus or the train. You can read your paper, check your Facebook page or as many do play Candy Crush (!) etc. You can’t do this in a car, particularly if you want to punch the bloke in the white van who’s just cut you up! Ideally we’d all choose to walk or cycle. Perhaps now, as summer approaches, this is the time to consider an alternative mode of transport.

Things are happening to make all of the alternatives better. For example Swift pay as you go, the ‘Midlands Oyster card’, which is just being rolled out and will eventually, be used on buses, Metro and the train for local journeys. The NX Platinum bus services are also operating on certain routes. These offer extra comfort; who doesn’t like leather seats and free WiFi? And of course let’s not forget Grand Central (New Street). A fortune has been spent on the station and it’s very impressive so why not consider using it.

As I said I’m not here to preach. Instead, I’m here to encourage.  Why not ditch the car for a month and see how it goes? If you don’t like it switch back. You have nothing to lose do you? If you have no idea as to your options, take a look at some of the apps available which will tell you exactly which services to use, where to get them from and if they are running on time (City Mapper is particularly good for example).

My hope from writing this is that one person gives it a go. I do, however, expect some negative comments. Please remember though I’m only trying to help so be gentle with me!

Paul Fielding

Divisional Director and champion of the Colmore Business District’s ‘Accessible & Connected’ working group.

The opinions expressed in this article represent the views of the author / Colmore Business District and not those of Brewin Dolphin.