‘A go-anywhere transport system’, Birmingham Connected discussed at council meeting

by Ion Mates

Transport in Birmingham was the main issue in a meeting at Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham Connected was discussed recently by the Economy and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Anne Shaw, Head of Transportation Services, presented the progress.

More details on the scheme are available under the Birmingham Connected Whitepaper, outlining a 20 year transport strategy for the city.

The session continued with a private agenda.

This post was originally published on Birmingham Eastside.


Q&A:Safer Travel Police – queries, concerns over public transport

Birmingham Updates Birmingham Updates bring for us a Storify of the tweets from a live Q&A session with the Safer Travel Police –  a joint force team of the West Midlands Police and the British Transport Police.

Sgt Ben Westwood answered questions and concerns related to public via Facebook and Twitter: #TweetTheSarg

HS2: the Great Debate among approvers and critics

This year’s West Midlands Great Debate saw an almost total consensus among the audience over the realisation of the HS2 railway.

Majority of the people who took part in the event raised their hands when asked by debate chairman Evan Davis if they were in favour of the project.

But through the web and social media, against-HS2 campaign groups heavily criticised the event.

Panellists in favour of the realisation of the HS2 were Glenn Howells Architects’ Davinder Bansall, Birmingham City Council Leader Sir Albert Bore and music producer Pete Waterman.

While the opposition representatives were Campaign to Protect Rural England Chief Executive Shaun Spiers,  economist and entrepreneur Jerry Marshall, and First Class Partnership’s Chris Stokes.

The event was organised by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and other professional institutes working in the built environment sector.

The project, which is planned to initially connect London Euston and Birmingham, has recently gone through the supervision of the Supreme Court due to alleged environmental impact assessment inaccuracies.

Watch the video of the debate or read the round-up below:

VIDEO: Can camera drones be used for traffic management in Brum?

Could local councils replace helicopters with camera-drones to monitor traffic and carry out land surveys?

Drones are a greener and cheaper option. But they need to be used with caution, warns Birmingham based film-maker Didier Soulier from Onedayinmylife Video Productions.

Sharika Nambiar finds out more with Pupul Chatterjee for Brum Transport:

Airport Expansion – Edinburgh sense contrasts with Birmingham nonsense!

By Howard Wheeldon

Independent aerospace analyst

Howard Wheeldon

Plans by Edinburgh Airport to spend £150m on the international hub’s terminal buildings will be very much welcomed by regular users of this otherwise well located Scottish airport.

But can the same be said of the Birmingham Airport?

Recently a controversial plans valued at an estimated £7bn was announced, based on the requirement of expanding airport passenger handling capacity from a current annual 9 million passengers to 70 million by 2030.

Is the location the right one?

I am not against regional airport expansion and development.

But whether Britain’s now seventh largest airport (which happens through a mistake of history to be located on what I will personally regard as a bad site for an airport) can justify such high levels of expansion at the existing airport location must surely be open to much doubt.

With the main London-Euston rail line at Birmingham Airport’s eastern boundary, the main A-45 trunk road running along part of the western boundary, substantial housing to the north and ‘green belt’ to the west, the Birmingham Airport location is completely hemmed in.

Birmingham Airport authorities are currently engaged extending the main runway by 405 metres in length to 3,003 metres. This investment is more than justified in my view.

Whatever happens in the future in terms of long term development, we can be certain that it will be years yet before plans on the scale submitted to the Davies Commission would be affordable, let alone accepted as desirable and maybe eventually achievable.

Do we need a 2nd runway?

If Birmingham Airport has got this far so brilliantly should it now be thinking of further expansion that includes, when and if demand is proven, the building of an additional runway by 2030?

A few years ago I guess that I would have suggested that further developing Birmingham Airport on the existing site at Elmdon would have been ridiculous given the road, rail and housing restrictions.

But today I suspect that I could at least learn to cope with a limited amount of further site expansion provided of course that existing transport infrastructure could be enticed into tunnels.

Increase in passenger capacity

As a regional airport, Birmingham Air port has a great future.

But to imagine that this airport will handle almost eight times the number of current passengers carried per year, and maybe three times the number of flights, is to me cloud cuckoo land stuff that smacks not only of arrogance and empire building but also of wasting precious resource.

Yes, Birmingham does have a big place in air transportation but it can be no competitor airport to those in London and the South East.

Neither in my view can or should it be allowed to attempt to make itself into the size of Manchester airport for no good reason or indeed, to out compete other regional airports such as Coventry and East Midlands.

Brum Transport had earlier interviewed Howard Wheeldon after a consultation with local residents was held in Coleshill. 

The liveblog from Coleshill consultation has more details. 


VIDEO: First impression of the tunnels after the reopening

Passing through the Queensway tunnels after its reopening, Ruth Duggal of Shuut Films captured her first impression of the refurbishment works:

Birmingham Queensway Tunnel Sept 2, 2013 from shuutfilms on Vimeo.

In a comment to Brum Transport, later, Ruth said the tunnels look much brighter now:

Soon to follow: More from Ruth and other commuters on her travel during the tunnel closures and after the reopening.

Network West Midlands say they already have their data open for developers

Public transport authority, Centro have said that they already have their data available to open data users.

Reacting to a guest post on Brum Transport about Network West Midlands opening up their raw dataCentro spokesman Steve Swingler said:

“We make our data available in a number of ways. Data such as the NaPTAN bus stop location information is made available through data.gov.uk.”


The NaPTAN data “uniquely identifies” all points of access to public transport in Great Britain.

He further added:

“Bus departure information both scheduled and real time departures is captured in the TravelineNextBuses API which is available through NextBuses.

By making our data available in this way Centro is maintaining the national standard for the provision of this type of information.”

Through an earlier guest post from Simon Whitehouse on Brum Transport, we were trying to look at the possibility of opening up transport data in the West Midlands.

This could enable developers to build more applications, websites and mobile services and get creative with data.

Why Network West Midlands should open up their raw data for bus timings

By Simon Whitehouse

Network West Midlands are currently promoting the different ways that they make their real-time bus information available.

It includes …”On Street displays, Bus station/Interchange Displays, Interactive Totems, Interactive Kiosks, Mobile Applications, Website applications and the SMS Service “Text Time”

screengrab from bus time app

What it still doesn’t appear to include is the raw data in real-time provided in a way that allows developers to create their own applications from it.

It would be so much better if they chose to do this, for a number of reasons.

1. The opportunity to reach people through different channel and platforms

By making the data available it makes it possible for somebody else to come along and build a better application, website or SMS service than the one that NWM already have.

It’s also a lot more likely that people will build travel applications that work on a wider variety of devices.

For instance, initially there was just an Android version of the mobile travel app. There is now an iPhone version, but NWM probably had to wait for more money and/or resources to develop that.

When Transport for London released their transport data it was quickly followed by a proliferation of applications across every platform you can think of. One developer, Adrian Short, created a travel application that only works on the Unix command line.

It’s not the sort of thing that you’d expect Transport for London to have developed, but, it’s useful to Adrian, and to the 33 people that downloaded it in the first month after he released it.

I’ve long thought that it would be possible to integrate a real-time public transport widget in venue websites. That’s simply not possible without a reusable raw data feed.

2. You can concentrate on getting the data right

The more that other people are using your data to create their own applications the more time you can spend on making sure that your data is accurate and reusable.

The Open Data Institute hosted company Placr have been set up to create “a single UK source of transport information by unification of timetable, live departure and disruption information for bus, rail, metro and ferry services.” They provide an api at transportapi.com.

When UK companies like Placr are creating these services, and Google Maps are providing national coverage of public transport services, Network West Midlands should put their effort into getting the data right those services access more useful rather than concentrating on developing their own applications.

3. You can’t think of everything

Then there are the slightly more playful uses of transport data that becomes possible when you are more open with your content.

Chromorama is a game developed by Mudlark. It takes people’s travel data from their Oyster Card accounts and “makes it into a game where every journey counts in a competition for the city”.

You get more points the more you vary your journey, the idea being that the game “encourages people to make new journeys and use public transport in a different way by exploring new areas and potentially using different modes of public transport.”