Birmingham is the second most populated city in the country, and it’s growing. The council is taking some radical action to combat heavy traffic, and it’s set to reshape the city for the better.
With a population of around 1.2 million, Birmingham is a bustling hub for residents, businesses and visitors. However, the council has long since recognised the need to improve transport in the area to continue to allow the city to thrive. This is particularly prominent as the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the opening of HS2 rapidly approach.
Now, the “car-centric” city as about to undergo a major transformation. In a bid to tackle congestion as well as pollution, officials plan to shift the focus onto public transport and “active travel”. This involves closing roads to through traffic, improving cycle and on-foot options and providing zero-emission buses across Birmingham.
Wasseem Zaffar, Birmingham’s transport lead, says there are too many single-occupancy car journeys in the city. He adds that a quarter of trips are one mile or less, and this is what the council wants to change.
The city is going to be split into seven key “cells”. These will be the city centre core, Jewellery Quarter, Knowledge Quarter, Eastside, Southside, Westside and Convention Centre. To travel between zones, motorists will have to use a ring road. The intention behind this is to encourage people to use other modes of transport.
To support this, there will be a big push for pedestrianisation to make it easier to access areas on foot. The city already has blue cycle lanes, which Zaffar says have been hugely popular already. There are also already Voi e-scooters available across the town.
In the original transport plan, published last year, Zaffar said good transport is the “most important ingredient in ensuring that the benefits of Birmingham’s growth are felt in every part of the city.”
He added: “Transport is key to opening up job and training opportunities, to providing access for all to essential services including health and education and to supporting individual self-development and fulfilment. In this way, transport is much more than a means of getting us to where we want to go each day. To unlock the potential of transport, we need to fundamentally change the way people and goods move around the city.”
Young professionals flocking to Birmingham
Birmingham recently ranked as the eighth best city for work-life balance in the UK. In a study from Shawbrook Bank, the city scored highly in attracting growing numbers of young professionals.
The research showed employees spent an average of 32.7 hours a week working. This is the third lowest in the country, and 1.1 hours below national average. Commuting times are also already relatively low, at 28.85 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes for the UK average. Once the council’s transport plans come to fruition, it is likely this will reduce further.
House prices and the cost of living are lower in Birmingham than in many other cities. This is a key factor for both buyers and renters looking for a place to live, particularly young workers.
Thanks to many of these factors, as well as the ongoing investment and regeneration in the area, Birmingham is attracting swathes of young professionals. Over the next 20 years, one forecast shows there could be an additional 150,000 residents making the move to Birmingham.
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