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Plans have recently emerged for a transport shake up in Birmingham, with £4 billion worth of improvements tabled to provide more dedicated bus and metro lanes, as well as a potential ‘Super-Tunnel’ that would allow traffic on the often congested A38 to bypass the congested city centre more effectively.

Announced as part of the Council’s ‘Birmingham Connected’ scheme, this also includes plans to reopen disused rail lines and construct two new stations. This proposal is among a number of different options that was presented to councillors yesterday, with every option supposedly being given equal priority despite the fact that the tunnel would be the most expensive option.

A subterranean motorway has previously been built in Boston, USA, in an attempt to reduce traffic in the city. A similar tunnel system has also been successfully implemented in the past, with Seattle being somewhat of a pioneer in 1990 with the opening of the Metro Bus Tunnel. Instead of diverting cars beneath the ground, this system instead moved public transport beneath the city. This underground route stretches 1.3 miles and services over 20,000 people per hour, per direction with its 5 unique stations.

This example in Seattle has recently inspired plans for a similar scheme to be discussed in Oxford City Centre, though this has been met with a decidedly mixed reaction as there are said to be many historical tunnels running under the streets that link numerous Oxford colleges. A suggested cost of approximately £500 million is also another potential stumbling block.

Tunnel Vision

Is a drastic large scale action such as a ‘Super-Tunnel’ the right way forward, or would congestion charging, more strategically located park and ride sites on radial routes or more investment in behavioural change be a better use of public funds?

HC

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