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Coachways vision policy context in the West Midlands

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The West Midlands region is home to Birmingham, Britain's second city. As a densely populated and important centre of economic activity, the strategic transport links to and through the region are often under a great deal of stress.

Owing to the city's central location, Birmingham is also recognised as the "hub of the national coach network" (Aspen Burrow Crocker 2001 p.30), with Birmingham Coach Station providing an important interchange for national coach services. Indeed National Express, the dominant coach operator in the UK, have based their head quarters in the city (National Express 2010).

Nevertheless, the region's most recent (draft) transport strategy (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2007), provides little explicit guidance with respect to provision for express coach services. This may be partly due to the existence of a well developed rail network and West Midlands Metro (a light rail service between Wolverhampton and Birmingham) which provide the majority of inter-urban public transport services in the region. Indeed the strategy advocates "the development of high quality public transport systems, building upon the existing Metro system" and "improved rail services on key routes" (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2007 p.177). The policy also sets out to support "the development of integrated network of high quality bus services" (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2007 p.177).

Coaches, however, are only specifically mentioned with reference to the role of strategic park and ride sites. New park and ride sites are advocated at locations "adjacent to congested sections of the motorway network" where they can closely integrate with a "frequent, rapid, rail, light rail (or possibly bus) service to a major centre" (West Midlands Regionsl Assembly 2007 p.179). Strategic park and ride sites are considered in the strategy to provide opportunities for "hub interchange with buses and or coaches" (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2007 p.179).

This regional policy context must also be seen within the national policy framework which has promoted the trialing of hard shoulder running to alleviate pressure on the region's motorway network. Over the longer term national policy advocates the concept of "the managed motorway" (DfT 2008, p.54), incorporating strategies such as High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, which may prevent further opportunities for express coach services in the region. Detailed plans are yet to emerge however.

Contents

History

The present Regional Transport Strategy is contained within the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (Government Office for the West Midlands 2008). This was first published as a Regional Planning Guidance note in 2004 (Government Office for the West Midlands 2010). There followed a three phase review of the Regional Spatial Strategy (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2010c). Phase 1 involved a detailed study of the Black County area which has now been completed and associated revisions were approved in the current Regional Spatial Strategy published in 2008 (Government Office for the West Midlands 2008).

Phase two revisions began in parallel in 2005 and involved a review of the Regional Transport Strategy (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2010b). This draft transport strategy (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2007) is still awaiting approval, but nevertheless provides the most up to date account of transport thinking in the region (as outlined above).

A number of transport studies have also been carried out over the last ten years to inform the development of transport policy in the region (Aspen Burrow Crocker 2001, Scott Wilson 2002, Jacobs Consultancy 2003) . With respect to the evaluation of coach service provision, the West to East Midlands multi-modal study specifically identified a "lack of strategic bus and coach services" in the study area (the corridor between Birmingham and Nottingham) (Jacobs Consultancy 2003 p.25). The study found that:

"Express coach services are well integrated at key interchanges such as Birmingham Digbeth and Leeds Dyer Street, however connecting services can be limited and involve lengthy waits dependent upon ultimate destination" (Jacobs Consultancy 2003 p.25).

It suggested further that "integration [of coach services] with other modes is poor, with no marketing initiatives for bus, rail or park and ride promoted within the Core Area. The only opportunities for integrated travel are facilitated by National Express services utilising local bus stations" (Jacobs Consultancy 2003 p.25) and "whilst express coach services traverse the major trunk roads within the Study Area, calls are generally only made at major centres" (Jacobs Consultancy 2003 p.27).

Recognising these gaps in inter-urban public transport provision, the study made recommendations for a new rail station to be built at Coleshill (which has subsequently been delivered and is now in operation). This would act as a public transport interchange for a number of new express bus services (Jacobs Consultancy 2003 p.v) (see Coach scheme aspirations below).

However, despite these recommendations, and Birmingham Coach Station's role as a central interchange for national coach services, it is apparent that specific support for express coach services is yet to feature strongly in transport policy making in the region.

Regional transport policy timeline

Date Development
October 2001 The West Midlands Area Multi Modal Study is published (Aspen Burrow Crocker 2001).
March 2002 The West Midlands to North West Conurbations Multi-Modal Study is published (Scott Wilson 2002).
August 2003 The West Midlands to East Midlands Multi Modal Study is published (Jacobs Consultancy 2003).
June 2004 West Midlands Regional Planning Guidance, containing a Regional Transport Strategy is published. This acts as the Regional Spatial Strategy. Phase 1 revisions (also known as The Black Country study) to the strategy immediately commence (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2010a).
November 2005 Phase two revisions to the Regional Spatial Strategy commence. This includes a review of the Regional Transport Strategy (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2010b).
December 2007 The West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy Phase Two Revision Draft is published (West Midlands Regional Assembly 2007). This document contains the most recent updates to the Regional Transport Strategy. However these revisions are currently pending approval.
January 2008 Following approval of the Phase 1 revisions, a new Regional Spatial Strategy for the West Midlands is published (Government Office for the West Midlands 2008). This contains a Regional Transport Strategy but does not include the updates submitted for approval as part of the Phase 2 revision draft.

Recently completed coach schemes

Birmingham Coach Station: Formerly known as Digbeth Coach Station, the rebuilt Birmingham coach station was opened in December 2009 (National Express 2009). The redevelopment of Birmingham Coach Station superseded plans to develop a new coach interchange at Snow Hill, the second largest train station in Birmingham (Birmingham Post 2010).

Coach schemes currently in progress

There are no coach network related schemes currently in progress.

Coach scheme proposals

There are no known coach scheme proposals in the region.

Coach scheme aspirations

Coleshill interchange hub and spoke bus and coach services: Identified in the West to East Midlands Multi Modal Study (Jacobs Consultancy 2003). This proposed 4 bus services per hour linking Birmingham Internation Airport to the new Coleshill Interchange. Hourly services linking Coleshill Interchange to Nottingham via Ashby de la Zouch & East Midlands Airport; to Derby via Ashby de la Zouch & East Midlands Airport; and to Burton upon Trent via Tamworth, Ashby de la Zouch, East Midlands Airport & Coalville; It also proposed an hourly bus service linking Leicester to Burton upon Trent via Coalville, Ashby de la Zouch and Swadlincote (Jacobs Consultancy 2003 p.v).

West Midlands Supershowcase Bus Network: The West Midlands Area Multi-Modal Study (Aspen Burrow Crocker 2001, p.9) recommended that strategic bus routes in the area should be upgraded to achieve a journey time equivalent to 95% of car speeds at peak periods. This would require a significant programme of bus priority measures as identified in the figure below:

WestMidlandsSuperShowCaseBus.JPG

See also

References

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