City council bosses in Birmingham have announced plans for four more Red Routes despite the furore over the Stratford Road route with businesses up-in-arms as trade fell due to the ‘no stopping’ policy (Birmingham Mail).
The four new routes; Alcester Road, Warwick Road, Dudley Road and the Hagley Road are unlikely to get funding until 2012 according to transport officers, but we should be asking why these plans are in the pipeline at all?
According to the proponents of these new Red Routes the three already in place (Stratford Road, Tyburn Road and Walsall Road) have seen, “less congestion, improved journey times, more reliable buses, fewer accidents and improved air quality”, all very admirable but is this still a worthwhile investment when rate-paying shopkeepers and small business owners have already claimed that they are having to look at making staff redundancies to survive the dramatic decrease in passing trade?
At the beginning of March a report by Owen Williams, commissioned by Birmingham City Council vindicated those who rebelled over the Stratford Road Red Route by finding the following:
- 89% of respondents said that the Red Route impacted “Negatively A lot”
- 73% of managers stated that they had lower turnover
- Sales, customer numbers and the amount spend per customer down significantly.
Another independent report by Dr Jonathan Scott (Aston University) and Dr Javed Hussain (Birmingham City University) turned up very similar results. Despite this concurrence it appears that the council are determined to push-on at the risk of putting these people out of business and damaging local trade.
What they may lose in rates from small businesses, it appears they are determined to recover from fines and within the first ten months of the scheme traffic wardens had furiously issued almost 7,000 parking tickets making £400,000 for the council. That included 4,338 in Springfield – the heart of the ‘Balti Belt’ providing an obvious deterrent to would-be restaurant customers. I think it’s safe to say that’s over 4,000 customers who won’t be repeating the experience for fear of getting stung once again.
Birmingham City Council are well aware of the hugely negative impact on trade these routes are having, and though they may see this as a great way of meeting whatever targets they have for easing congestion, there’s no doubt it's potentially incredibly destructive as far as the local economy is concerned.
The Red Route is just another woefully inadequate way of trying to decrease congestion, and they’ll certainly be less congestion on the roads when local businesses fold and people no longer have jobs to travel to.