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BUSES: Solihull routes “just not good enough”

BUSES: Solihull routes “just not good enough”

Photo by Local Democracy Reporter David Irwin.

Hour-long journeys to cover eight miles, patchy rural services and fears over “hooligans” on board are among key complaints about Solihull buses.

Councillors of all political colours this week agreed routes had to be quicker, safer and more reliable to convince people to leave their car behind.

Singling out the 60 minute journey time from Castle Bromwich to the town centre – less than 10 miles as the crow flies – council leader Ian Courts made clear it “isn’t good enough.”

His intervention comes amid fresh concern on the suburb’s Parkfield estate, which has recently lost the No 97 – leaving residents entirely reliant on the X13.

The change, part of a wider shake-up of the network at the end of August, has reignited frustration about the service available to many borough travellers.

Cllr Courts told a scrutiny board that there had to be a major push to improve links between different parts of the borough.

“It’s been a great concern to me that the transport system for the West Midlands is really very much based on a hub and spoke,” he said.

“You can get into Birmingham easily from a number of parts, but you can’t get into Solihull so easily.

“It’s just not good enough that it takes an hour to get from not even the south of Solihull … to the north.

“And it’s vitally important those issues get looked at.”

He said that Solihull was also at a disadvantage compared to many of its neighbours, due largely to the large sections of open countryside.

“Solihull has a difficult situation with rural areas … it’s not easy to fit out the rural areas with good public transport.

Cllr Kathryn Thomas (Lib Dem, Lyndon) also highlighted the challenges of having to rely on bus services to get about.

“I once experimented by trying to commute from Elmdon to Castle Vale on the bus and I promptly quadrupled my journey time.

“I gave up on it after the first week, although in fairness I didn’t enjoy walking through Elmdon Park to the bus stop in the pitch black either.”

Council transport planner Walter Bailey conceded the network was heavily built around the second city and hadn’t moved with the times.

“It was carried forward from the distant past relatively unchanged … it’s very Birmingham-centric, we need better provision across the borough.”

Steve Haynes, from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), said it was key to improve connections but conceded the difficulties given the financial considerations of operators.

“Some of the challenges we’ve got in a fully commercial world is the eye is always going to be on how much some of these things cost.”

Aside from concerns about the length of routes and their frequency, many said fears that buses weren’t safe also proved a barrier.

Cllr Jim Ryan (Con, Bickenhill) said that drug-use, abuse and anti-social behaviour would put people off no matter how clean or energy-efficient the vehicle.

“When you’re trapped on a bus with all the doors closed and the driver is tucked away in a little cab with the screen there … if you get hooligans on the bus and people misbehaving it is very upsetting.

“And you say to yourself ‘would I want to do this again?’

“The police do their best and they have certain places along the route where they will check out the buses, but the police have their pressures and they can’t be everywhere.”

Solihull Council is currently working on a new strategy to improve travel – Solihull Connected.

Proposals are set to take shape over the next year, with a final package of proposals likely to be signed-off in late 2022

Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter


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