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BIRMINGHAM: Five wacky travel plans – now shelved

BIRMINGHAM: Five wacky travel plans – now shelved

Credit: Birmingham City Council.

From a cable car system to a monorail – Birmingham has seen some ambitious ideas aiming to sort out travel in the city over the years.

This week, the idea of closing the A38 tunnels to cars has resurfaced with the publication of a finalised Birmingham transport plan, likely to be adopted on October 12.

Traffic could be diverted to the A4540 ring road according to the document – though Cabinet member Cllr Waseem Zaffar (Lab, Lozells) has said there are “no plans at this stage” for the scheme.

Here we look at some of the other big transport concepts mooted over the years.

A city centre cable car

Back in 2012, transport chiefs asked the architects behind the Thames cable car in London to draw up plans which would move passengers between major railway stations in Birmingham.

Reports from the time state the system would have operated on a “continuous loop”, providing a “turn up and go” system linking New Street Station, the Bull Ring and the Moor Street/Curzon Street HS2 terminal.

The idea was being considered by the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) which pre-dated Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

A Boston-style super tunnel

The option of replacing the A38 tunnels with a giant super tunnel the length of the city centre was being considered at one stage, it was reported in 2014.

The underground motorway would have taken a cue from Boston’s Big Dig route which took more than 15 years to build.

The concept was intended to free up the space in the city centre taken up by existing tunnels for other uses – much like the idea of moving traffic to the ring road seeks to do.

A genuine, bonafide monorail

Plans for a monorail in the region were first put forward in 2009 and have been championed by the Greater Birmingham Monorail Company and lobbying group Birmingham Business Focus (BBF).

The system was reportedly considered for both the A34 corridor and A45 Coventry Road linking New Street Station to Birmingham International Airport in 16 minutes.

The project was passed over in favour of the Sprint bus network, which is set to launch with hydrogen buses from 2022 and tram-style buses from 2023.

A Birmingham Underground

Former Birmingham council leader Mike Whitby suggested plans for a £3 billion underground transport system for the city in 2004.

A £150,000 feasibility study was carried out but a call was instead made to extend the Midland Metro.

In 2018, John Elledge of CityMetric and the New Statesman repeated the calls for a Birmingham underground system and TfWM reportedly “did not rule out the possibility”.

Hay Mills Rotor Station

Looking further back in time, Birmingham was home to its own helipad in the 1950s, linking the city to London in an hour.

Hansard states the Hay Mills Rotor Station was used by Kidderminster MP Sir Gerald Nabarro, who said at the time “we are on the threshold of a helicopter age in Britain for internal passenger transport”.

But the short-lived service reportedly ended for passengers in 1952 and for freight in 1954.

Words: Mark Cardwell, Local Democracy Reporter

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