October 20th 2020

Speech to Planners

This is extracts from a speech that Phil Bateman delivered to the PTRC Conference that was held in Birmingham on 7th July in the Banqueting Hall of Birmingham City Council.

There were over 100 Planners in attendance at the conference dinner.
o "When I was asked to perform in this slot I instantly said ‘yes’ without any real thought to the contents. David Bull had pressed the right buttons and basically appealed to my vanity.

o Now a simple speech has become mighty complicated and not without its political elephant traps. But nevertheless Management is not for faint hearts and every business needs its risk takers so here goes.

o I know that transport is a hot potato and that there are many rows raging over the County about what should be happening with regard to our transport system.

o There are arguments about New Street and the regions rail requirements. Should it be developed with an underground line sunk deep under the station, should there be some other requirement?

o Highways are in the news if you have them they appear to be shut…..M6 Aston Expressway….if you haven’t got them you want them look at the Wolverhampton Orbital road . Required by some not wanted by others.

o No matter where you look there is controversy, and debate yet there is a job to be done.

o So where do buses fit in all this? Well they carry 90% or there about of people using public transport here in the West Midlands County.
o They are the work horse of the conurbation states John Prescott our Deputy Prime Minister.

o Every one want’s one if you read all the vox pops in newspapers after a service has been re-routed or after a petition has been submitted to the local council …………..but not down my street…..Then the excuses I would use a bus….But they are not convenient as they are not fast enough!

I want to use the bus but they don’t go where I want?

o All of these are excuses that you have heard before. They are hardly new. But we still cannot deliver a proper response to them.

o So how is it when the bus stops operating..There are huge complaints. When your car breaks down and no bus operates there are complaints. When the bus gets caught in traffic and becomes unreliable there are complaints.

o Well the answer is easy in those sorts of conditions the bus becomes your priority. That’s the case in the West Midlands here….every working day 1 million bus passengers are using the TWM bus service. 18 hours a day 7 days a week. the bus is those peoples priority and politicians should not ignore that.

o TWM buses travel some 65 times a week around the World in mileage terms. They underpin the economy and are fundamental to many workers journeys.

o So why are they not treated with priority by the politicians here in the West Midlands County.? Bus priority measures have been advanced pitifully slowly here.

o When I asked the question recently about how many miles of bus priority measures had we achieved here in the West Midlands County in the last 4 years. The answer was staggering …….go on have a guess? Is it 20 25
35 kilometres? No a staggering 4 kilometres. A measley paltry miserable 4 kilometres.

o Now considering that bus priority measures stand at the front of the Local Transport Plan to improve services, how can we have implemented such a miserable amount of kilometre?

o It does not end there either for instance the operation of a new; or the UK’s first Statutory Bus Quality Partnership. Has been delayed 3 times even though we have ordered [TWM] our £2m of new bendy buses. And I have seen the first one myself just a couple of hours ago.

o I am being informed that the November date for the launch is to under jeopardy. Because some politicians are re thinking priority.

o The Bus Mall which was designed to provide better bus access for the City Centre has been less than successful and the future of the scheme is eagerly awaited. Big decision for both the City and the conurbation. Not an easy issue to fudge.

o Indeed it is a major concern for all who use it either as operators or passengers. The reputation of local Government has been damaged by the inability to provide systems that work and do the sort of job that they were designed to do.

Author: Phil Bateman

Article Date: 9th July 2004