First “cross-city” bus routes edge closer to reality but are they really needed?

Talk of providing new ‘cross-city’ bus services first emerged a few years ago, but it seemed to all go ‘off the boil’ and it looked like the plans were never going to come to fruition.

Following a series of works along the Dudley Road corridor in the last year or so to introduce bus priority measures, it was announced this week by the WMCA, that works would be commencing next week along the Moseley Road through Balsall Heath to introduce more bus priority measures to this part of the intended route.

Work on new bus lanes and junction upgrades on the busy Alcester Road is due to start later this month as part of an ongoing £30 million project to improve bus services across Birmingham, Sandwell and Dudley.

The new measures will give buses priority to improve journey times and reliability as they bypass traffic jams through the Balsall Heath area.

Work on the road, between Highgate Middleway and Park Road is due to begin on 27 February and expected to be completed by the end of June. It is being led by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) in partnership with Birmingham City Council.

This will be followed by works in Birmingham city centre, running from June, to provide bus priority measures in Margaret Street, Newhall Street, Summer Hill and Snow Hill Queensway. These are due to be completed by October. Public consultation on the plans took place during 2019.

The £30 million cross-city bus project will see priority measures, including bus lanes, junction upgrades and bus gates installed on a long route between Druids Heath and Dudley.

TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is working in partnership with Birmingham, Sandwell and Dudley councils on the project. The Department for Transport has provided £24 million of the funding.

“Bus lane works due to start on Birmingham commuter route” – West Midlands Combined Authority, 20th Feb 2023

The ultimate aim is to combine the 50 (Birmingham to Druids Heath), 82 (Birmingham to Bearwood) and 87 (Birmingham to Dudley) services into two new cross-city services, running from Druids Heath via Birmingham city centre to Dudley and Bearwood. At this stage, it is unclear what route numbers will be adopted, or how frequently the services will operate, or even which garage will run them.

At this point in time, these works will be disrupting the 50 service in the short-term, and will eventually (hopefully) provide some benefits to that service. But unlike much of the local media who have been reporting on the same WMCA press release, I know that these current works have no bearing or impact on either the 82 or 87 services, as they don’t (currently) use the Alcester Road through Balsall Heath!

New bus lanes?

What makes me laugh about this is that as part of the proposed bus priority measures, new bus-only lanes are to be introduced along the Moseley Road.

The funny thing is that – as anyone who regularly uses the 50 service will tell you – there is already one bus lane on Moseley Road, heading southbound between Lime Grove and Runcorn Road.

Satellite view of Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, showing cars parked in the existing bus lane (c) Google Imagery

The bus-lane already in place is supposed to be effective between 4:30pm and 6:45pm, yet on the few occasions when I catch the 50 between those hours, there are always vehicles parked up in the bus lane.

Moseley Road street view, with cars parked in bus lane (c) Google Imagery

Which means that the buses on the 50 can’t use the lane already provided for them, and get stuck in the same queues of traffic that other motorists get stuck in.

If the existing bus lanes aren’t being actively enforced, what hope is there for any new ones?

Is there any ‘need’ for these cross-city services?

The other question to be asked is whether there is any actual ‘need’ for such cross-city bus services, or is this just another ‘vanity project’ like Sprint?

There were cross-city bus services in the past, but those ended up being broken up or curtailed due to reliability issues from having to travel through Birmingham city centre because of… traffic congestion.

The Dudley/Bearwood to Druids Heath cross-city services are the first stage of a plan to have a wider network of such services, as shown in the diagram below:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of bus priority measures that will improve the running of bus services, but if I’m travelling from one part of the city of Birmingham to another, then its no hardship for me to have to change onto another bus service in the city centre in order to complete my journey.

And I know that bus routes aren’t always about providing ‘end-to-end’ journeys, but are about getting passengers to and from the places inbetween. After all, there can’t be that many people who regularly travel from Dudley to Maypole, or Frankley to Castle Vale, or are there?

I’d love to hear what other bus users think about this, or anything else that matters to them. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or consider joining our forum and have your say there!


About WMBU

Stu is the founder of this West Midlands Bus Users website.
He is not a bus enthusiast, but as a regular passenger takes an interest in public transport related matters, having relied on buses to get around for over twenty-five years now.

View all posts by WMBU →
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments