West Midlands Congestion is "a disease"

02 June 2016

Buses at Moor Street in Birmingham Road congestion is “a disease” which has brought average traffic speeds to below 10mph in Britain’s busiest cities and reduced some bus routes to walking pace, a new report warns today.

The growth in online shopping leading to more delivery vans on the road is partly to blame for the rise in congestion, with the surge in Uber drivers exacerbating the problem.

The situation is set to get worse, with traffic on our roads expected to grow by up to 55% by 2040, and morning and evening rush-hour periods already lengthening as traffic volumes reach saturation point in cities.

The West Midlands leads the way for the public and private sector working in partnership for the benefit of passengers. The UK’s first Bus Alliance, signed last November, is seeing £150 million being invested over the next five years by Transport for West Midlands (TFWM, formerly Centro) – the delivery arm of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) and the bus operators in new, cleaner buses, smartcard tickets and road changes to speed up journeys and make buses more reliable.

But despite all this, congestion is rising and hitting the bus sector the hardest. Congestion costs the West Midlands over £2 billion a year. Nationally, journey times are increasing by 10% per decade – a rate which, if it continues, will cost an estimated 5,000 jobs per year.

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive, Greener Journeys said: 

"A fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road. Giving buses more priority on the roads and introducing contactless payments would make journeys faster and more reliable, encouraging more people to leave their cars at home and easing traffic to benefit all road users."

Peter Coates, Managing Director of National Express, said: 

“We know our customers are used to contactless payments, so we are in the process of buying new contactless ticket machines for all our buses.”

The report, The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers, found that if journey times continue to decline at their current rate, bus passenger numbers will drop by between 10% and 14% every 10 years, putting the future of the bus sector under threat.

Councillor John McNicholas, chairman of the ITA’s Transport Delivery Committee which oversees Transport For West Midlands (TFWM) Added: 

“Congestion stifles economic growth, pollutes our air and generally lowers the quality of life for the people of the West Midlands. That’s why we are working hard to deliver an attractive and fully integrated transport network that makes it easier than ever for people to leave their cars at home and travel in a greener way.”

Other measures to be considered include charging van drivers making deliveries during peak hours; introducing more road schemes such as bus lanes; and encouraging bus companies to provide more up-to-date travel information for passengers, says the report.

Prof David Begg, Visiting Professor at Plymouth University and former chairman of the Government’s Commission for Integrated Transport, who wrote the report, said:

“Traffic congestion is a disease which if left unchecked will destroy the bus sector. If the trend is allowed to continue, then our urban buses will no longer represent a viable mode of transport for the majority of customers.

“We have to change travel behaviour. If we don’t try to influence people’s travel choices, it will mean that we all have no choice but to sit in ever increasing traffic jams.”

Published 2nd June 2016