Election promises and the sad reality of the Outer Circle

The West Midlands Mayoral Election takes place next week (Thursday 2nd May 2024), and some of the candidates have been making their promises about buses and public transport in the region, ably assisted by the propaganda machine that is the local news media.

One particular promise that has been made by a couple of the candidates, is that the famous Outer Circle will be ‘restored’ back to a full circular.

Here are two recent Birmingham Mail articles:

Secret dates, jam sandwiches and school trips – mayor hopeful promises to bring back Number 11 bus

The much loved Number 11 bus used to take passengers on a full circuit of the city – but it’s now split in two halves, to the frustration of some Brummies. Labour mayoral hopeful Richard Parker has pledged to bring it back


I did a loop of the number 11 bus – here’s why it should be restored to its former glory

The 25-mile route has run since 1926 and was once Europe’s longest urban bus route – but it was sliced in half in 2021


I say these are nothing more than ‘propaganda pieces’, because both articles are biased, and neither offers any explanation as to why the Outer Circle was split up this way.

What happened?

In July 2021, due to severe disruption being caused by major roadworks project in Perry Barr, the route was ‘split’ into two sections, so buses would no longer complete a full loop around the circuit.

From Acocks Green, the ‘western’ half runs as 11C to Erdington, where buses would turn around and run back as 11A. The ‘eastern’ half runs as 11A to Perry Barr, where buses turn round and run back as 11C.

The vast majority of bus passengers who use this service to travel along shorter parts of the route did not notice any difference. There was an inconvenience for some passengers who travel through Acocks Green, Erdington or Perry Barr, as it meant they had to change buses to complete their journey.

This was only originally intended as a ‘temporary’ measure, and the original plan was to restore the full loop once the roadworks in Perry Barr had been completed.

Unfortunately, as with many major infrastructure projects nowadays, the works overran. Even once completed, the 11 service was still unreliable, and continued to suffer delays due to other roadworks projects and traffic congestion elsewhere around the route.

Can the 11 be ‘restored’?

Undoubtedly yes it can. I was told privately a while back that NX West Midlands “very much” had a desire to put the service back to a full loop again, mainly because the number of buses used could be reduced, which would bring the operating costs down, or the additional resources could then be used to increase the overall frequency.

However, while the service was still operating unreliably at times, even as two separate services, they were reluctant to do so, as it would likely mean the service would become even more unreliable, which would just lead to more passenger complaints about late running and overcrowding.

When the time is right, and circumstances allow it, NX will put the service back to a full circular again.

Politicians and their ’empty promises’

Politicians will say and promise anything, just to get you to vote for them. I doubt many of them regularly use buses, let alone understand how bus services and operators work.

“Your”, not “you’re”

It’s all very well promising “I’ll make sure it happens”, but the promise is meaningless without explaining what you will actually do to make this happen.

And I don’t believe that bus franchising, or “taking back control” of bus services, will magically make all services run reliably, not until the fundamental issues of traffic congestion and scheduling of roadworks programmes is addressed.

You could ‘demand’ that NX make the 11A/C a full circular, but passengers would soon get unhappy again if they’re having to wait 20-30mins for a bus to turn up in Acocks Green because they’re all stuck in heavy traffic in Handsworth, for example.

Then guess what happens, it is the bus operator that bears the brunt of passengers’ anger and frustrations, rather than the mayor who insisted this happened. (Yes, they are very selective about what they take credit for!)

I don’t have the answer or the solution, and I don’t believe these politicians do either. Don’t get me wrong, I’d very much like to see the Outer Circle as a circular route again, but not at the expense of service reliability becoming worse.


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
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments