Midland Metro is the ONLY option
This has been a bit of a roller-coaster week for the Midland Metro.
No sooner had it emerged that Centro and the city council were looking to get something moving on the Snow Hill-New Street section of the proposed city centre extension (bringing Metro more into line with the City Centre Plan, it emerged later in the week) than Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Jerry Blackett was talking about the business community withdrawing support for Metro on the grounds that the Government is never going to fund it.
It's tempting to ask: "what support?". Certainly in Mr Blackett's case every comment I've seen him make on the Metro has been consistently negative. He's been "not sure" about trams on the Hagley Road, he's suggested that a fleet of "fast buses" would be much cheaper and almost as effective, and on Saturday once again he was suggesting that funding should be sought for "more buses" instead of trams.
How in the name of all that's sane can more buses be squeezed on to the streets of Birmingham? I doubt very much that "more buses" would have been good enough for Manchester's Chamber of Commerce.
True, we have a Labour Government which has been resolutely anti-light rail, in direct contradiction of John Prescott's pronounceents when it came to office in 1997. But it's wrong to assume that political realities are necessarily set in stone. It's not going to be long before this Government's mind will be concentrated on how it is going to get itself re-elected. And if Brown is replaced by Cameron who's to say he won't endorse tram schemes as a demonstration of his green credentials? After all, Mero Line 1 was built under a Tory government.
The bottom line is this: traffic in the West Midlands is seizing up, a step-change in public transport is desperately needed, and the Metro is the only option on the table (because "more buses" is not a step-change).
This is the time for Manchester-style unity and concerted lobbying, not giving up and doing the Government's dirty work for it.