Learning From Wolverhampton & West Midlands
Announcements made this week by the West Midlands Combined Authority on proposals for
extensions to the light rail network (Midland Metro) adding to ongoing work will expand services to new parts of the Birmingham and Black Country conglomeration. They include a dedicated line to Wolverhampton New Cross Hospital from that city's centre. A further new line is proposed between Wednesbury and Walsall that utilises a dormant railway right of way. These are part of a £280M bid covering four more route extensions to the present network and ongoing construction,
The WMCA carries with it weight of a Mayoral led combined local government authority which the Fylde now badly needs by bringing together its three coastal local authorities including Blackpool - with an Elected Mayor and combined council. The fragmented political and local government set up that sees Wyre, Fylde and Blackpool Unitary Authority - with their seperate administrative systems, together with the added layer of Lancashire County Council bureaucracy is bedevilling strategic planning as well as duplicating high paying management positions at public expense.
In transportation alone - the value of a jointly managed body covering rail and road services west of the M6 and WCML is in plain sight when compared to the multiple and often overlapping resources of the present political and governmental structure. To attract the level of central government funding for capital and infrastructure schemes a single Fylde public administered body is necessary. Especially when all of the Fylde coastline is facing increasing sea levels caused by ice cap melting at an alarming rate, Much of the present low lying heavily populated coastal districts are destined to be overwhelmed by ingress of the sea in coming decades -in forecasts on global warming implications for the UK.
For any meaningful response to the challenges of this century - a far broader and unified government structure needs to be put in place than the splintered and parochial system now jealously protected by political interests, as well as incumbencies of high salaried managers. Whether it is flood defence, transportation, economic planning or house building schemes eating up invaluable green land - the Fylde's interests are ill served and badly in need of a radical shakeup. Tinkering around the edges of parliamentary constituency boundaries, and cosmetic band aid studies no longer suffice in the face of overwhelming change at all levels of society.
A first generation Midland Metro unit as backdrop to a special visit by Skoda Transportation from Plzen as part of that company's preparedness for bidding on the Blackpool light rail fleet tender in 2009. Examination of the Birmingham to Wolverhampton service formed part of their due diligence (accompanied by the writer). The system has moved on dramatically since then with replacement of the original Italian built fleet and a spreading network in and around Birmingham.
Creation of a top level taskforce utilising all of the Fylde's Local Authorities plus the LCC and Lancashire Enterprise agency would cut through interminable meetings and drawn out studies . An immediate firsthand look at the role and results of English conglomerations which already have got a grip at regional level - will give impetus to the setting up of a comparable Fylde organisation with the powers (and funding delivery) now so badly needed. Birmingham and the West Midlands seem to have real time answers and an action plan delivering sustained results.