New transport system will be sprinting for success at Commonwealth Games

Sprint bus CGI

Top athletes are not the only ones aiming to be in peak condition for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – the region’s transport system is also looking to be fast out the blocks.

Details were unveiled today (Thursday August 23) of a new type of transport called Sprint which will use tram-style vehicles to provide fast, reliable journeys along some of the region’s busiest roads.

Sprint, which runs on road-going wheels rather than tracks, will have seven routes by 2026 but three of those are now being accelerated so they are in place for the Games.

Birchfield Harriers Kaie Chambers-Brown (Great Britain U20) and Cassie-Anne Pemberton (Great Britain U18) launch the Sprint consultation with Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street (left) and Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council.Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, were joined by Great Britain sprinters Kaie Chambers-Brown (U20) and Cassie-Anne Pemberton (U18) in urging people to have their say and take part in a public consultation on the Sprint plans.

The Mayor said: “Sprint will work in tandem with the new suburban rail lines and Metro tram routes we are building, creating a transport network that can grow our economy, give people cleaner air and squeeze the maximum benefit possible from HS2.

“But Sprint can also help make the Games a success which is why we are accelerating three of the routes. I would urge people to have their say on these plans and help showcase our region to the world and shape our future transport system.”

Sprint is being developed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), in partnership with local councils including Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.

The authorities have now drawn up detailed proposals for the three priority routes which are:

  • Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport and Solihull (A45 serving NEC)
  • Birmingham City Centre through Sandwell to Walsall (A34 serving Games Village and Alexander Stadium)
  • Birmingham City Centre to Sutton Coldfield via Langley

Cllr Ward, who is also WMCA portfolio holder for economic growth, said: “The arrival of Sprint will undoubtedly act as a catalyst for regeneration and inclusive growth in the West Midlands, offering improved access to jobs and opportunities including those provided by HS2, Birmingham’s Big City Plan, and other major employers in the region.

“Sprint will offer an attractive, viable alternative for car drivers and, as we continue to tackle the pressing issue of air pollution, this exciting project will help to significantly reduce the number of cars on our roads, improving air quality in our region.”

Sprint will offer passengers a level of service and comfort similar to a tram with off-board ticketing, multiple-door boarding, wheelchair and pushchair access, free wifi, air conditioning and on-board audio visual announcements and travel information.

It will provide fast and dependable journey times using limited stops – around 500m apart – using its own dedicated lane through areas of high congestion. It will also get automatic priority at busy junctions.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “In many ways the Sprint vehicles look and feel like a tram especially in the way the seats are orientated and the doors operate.

“It combines the capacity of a tram system but with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus. It is a proven concept in other European cities and we believe it can play a key role in our plans for the Commonwealth Games and the integrated transport system we are building for the future.”

Details of the plans, which would require some changes to road lanes, junctions, roadside parking and access, will also be available at five public events:

Birmingham to Sutton via Langley Route
Saturday September 1 – 9am-3pm  – The Parade (near Aldi) Sutton Coldfield B72 1PL

A34 Route
Thursday September 6 – 1pm-7pm – Scott Arms, Sandwell B42 1TQ

A45 Route
Saturday September 15 – 9am-3pm – Mell Square, Solihull B91 3AZ

A34 Route
Wednesday September 19 – 2pm-7pm – Park Street (near Wilkinson’s) Walsall Town Centre WS1 1LJ

All Three Routes and Hagley Road Phase 1 Advanced Works
Saturday September 22 – 9am-3pm – High Street Birmingham City Centre B4 7SL

The consultation runs until September 28 and people can take part by visiting www.tfwm.org.uk/sprint

Sprint bus interior cgi

Making Birmingham a Donor City: I’ve signed-up to the Organ Donor Register – have you?

As the British Transplant Games drew to a close on Sunday, Birmingham was named Transplant Sport’s first ever Donor City. The award (in association with the Daily Mirror) recognises the city’s commitment to increasing the number of Birmingham citizens signed-up to the Organ Donor Register.

Council leader Ian Ward explains why he has registered to be a donor and urges other Birmingham citizens to do the same.

When I was asked earlier this year how hosting the British Transplant Games might be used to improve donor registration rates in the city, I suggested that Birmingham might become a Donor City.

And I’m delighted that – what seemed to me at the time to be a simple suggestion – has now brought together colleagues and partners from the NHS, Public Health and Birmingham City Council.

Now, our challenge is to use this award as a springboard to increasing awareness of the need for more donors and ultimately to bringing about a step-change in donor registration in Birmingham.

Our ambition is to make Birmingham the highest organ donor city in the UK; and the sad fact is that there is plenty of room for improvement.

According to NHS statistics released earlier this year, people in the West Midlands are the least likely in the country to have signed up to the organ donor register. In fact, fewer than one in four people in the region have signed up and in Birmingham the figure falls to just 21 per cent – sadly we are the second ranked of all core cities.

Those figures are not good enough, and sadly the picture gets even worse when you look at our BAME communities, which is why this project will have a particular focus on encouraging citizens from BAME communities (around 40 per cent of our population) to register.

Birmingham is an incredibly diverse city, home to people who can trace their roots back to virtually every country in the world – but if you are black, Asian or from another minority ethnicity, you have a significantly lower chance of receiving an organ than white patents.

Wolverhampton MP Eleanor Smith, who led a review into the situation entitled ‘Ending the Silent Crisis’, summed-up the problem when she recently wrote: “If members of the BAME communities don’t make donations of blood, organs and stem cells, then people will die! This is a very real health crisis. Demand is high – disproportionally high. And supply is extremely low.”

To address the shortfall, we must establish donation as a normal act. People in every community must feel able to talk about donation, illness and death. These are not easy topics and I understand why people shy away from them.

But organ donation saves lives and is the only hope for many desperately ill people in this city and elsewhere. There are people across the city who are alive today thanks to organ donation. They are alive because grieving relatives – in their darkest moments – selflessly agreed to help families also facing the prospect of losing a loved one.

The selfless actions of those courageous families should not be underestimated. They are true heroes.

If Birmingham lives up to the title of Donor City we will be a city of heroes and we will deliver a legacy that will improve the lives of many people on organ donor waiting lists.

Earlier this week we learned that a new opt-out system for organ donation could be in place by 2020, which is potentially very good news. But we still have a challenge on our hands to make organ donation to default option for people in Birmingham.

So this will be a campaign for hearts and minds. We need to get to a place, where donors are admired and respected, and their altruism recognised.

And success – as is nearly always the case – will require a team effort.

I’ve signed up to the Organ Donor Register and I will encourage my fellow citizens to do the same, starting with my colleagues on the city council.

If enough of us step up, in every neighbourhood and every community across the city, then we will truly merit the title of Donor City.

To register to donate, go to: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate/

For more information about donation go to: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/about-donation/

Birmingham in final three for Channel 4

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Channel 4 (C4) has announced today (Monday 23/7) that the West Midlands has made the final stage of the pitch process to host its new national HQ.

The broadcaster has selected Birmingham along with Greater Manchester & Leeds as the three final locations for its new home, as it looks to expand its presence outside of the capital.

The headquarters will consist of a new studio, a base for daily programmes, a new digital production unit and offices, creating hundreds of jobs across all areas of C4’s business, and enhancing the region’s reputation as place for creative companies to grow.

The West Midlands will also be in the running to host one of C4’s new regional, creative hubs, should its bid for the national HQ, be unsuccessful. The other cities shortlisted as potential creative hub locations are: Bristol, Cardiff and Glasgow.

The next stage of the process will involve C4 working with the West Midlands’ campaign team for a more in-depth assessment of the commercial aspects of the bid and to look at specific locations for the broadcaster’s new home.

Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “It’s great news that Birmingham has been shortlisted. We’re a perfect fit for Channel 4, with a wealth of knowledge and creativity, combined with one of the youngest and most diverse populations in Europe.

“We have the digital skills, the talent and the energy needed to make the move a major success and Channel 4 has a huge opportunity to tap into a city and a region of huge potential.”

Councillor George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, said: “We are naturally disappointed at today’s announcement.

“What does not change is that our city offers excellent transport links, a young, diverse population and a reputation for design and innovation which makes us an attractive option for potential investors along with our central location that means we are within two hours of 40 million people.

“Although we believed Coventry was the perfect choice, if it wasn’t to be us, the next best result is for Channel 4 to select a location in the vicinity. Therefore, it is good to see Birmingham is still in the running to host Channel 4 and we wish them well in their endeavours.

“But the future for Coventry is very bright and we continue to look forward to our Year of Wellbeing in 2019, our European City of Sport status next year and of course being UK City of Culture in 2021 as well as being named home of the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre.”

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Channel 4 has today confirmed Birmingham is on the final shortlist to be the broadcaster’s new national HQ. Clearly, this is excellent news and I would like to thank everybody who has worked with us on the bid.

“As a region, we encouraged and supported a bid by both Birmingham and Coventry, so it is disappointing that the latter has not made the shortlist. Everyone in Coventry should be proud of the confidence and energy of their efforts.

“Now, it is important the whole region gets behind the Birmingham bid. If we are successful in attracting the HQ, the benefits will be felt across the West Midlands.

“The West Midlands is the natural choice for Channel 4. Our unrivalled connectivity, the diverse and young nature of our population and the strength of our creative and digital economy mean we have a really compelling case for Birmingham.

“Now we up our game and find another gear as we continue discussions with the broadcaster ahead of the final decision.”

The campaign to convince C4 to move to the West Midlands saw a cast of creative talent, including: Adil Ray (writer/actor/director); Steven Knight (screenwriter/film director); Debbie Isitt, creator of film franchise Nativity; and local poet Casey Bailey, highlight the strength of talent that exists across the region at the end of June to a delegation from C4, which included chief executive Alex Mahon.

The WMCA bid highlights the many strengths of the West Midlands under the strapline of ‘Get Closer’, including: the region’s unparalleled connectedness to talent, ideas and resources, its youth and diversity, and the ongoing success and development the region is experiencing such as Coventry named UK City of Culture 2021, and the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

C4 is seeking to establish its new national HQ and creative hubs outside London, as part of its ‘4 All the UK’ strategy. The final announcement will be in October, with the broadcaster moving to the new HQ in 2019.