So today I decided to take a walk at lunch-time, to exercise my arthritic knees and get myself something to eat. I was born in Birmingham and spent many of my formative years here, but Oh Dear, what a mess the city now is in.
One of the first things I came upon was at the bottom of Hill Street hill, near to New Street Signal box. The pavement is being re-laid there for the second time in as many years and yet right next to there the road floods on the corner, whenever it rains, and has done for many years, but nothing is being done about it. Even after being re-laid, the pavements are at many levels and angles, perfect for the elderly and crippled. I thank God I don’t need artificial aids to getting about, it must be deadly.
What with the installation of the new tram-way and the provision of the new district heating system, to walk anywhere takes twice as long as it should, due to the numerous diversions and barriers that are in place. Considering it was lunchtime when I went for my walk, there were far fewer people about than I expected. I suppose this could be answered in part by the explanation that currently both the Mailbox and the shops above New Street station are closed. Whether the crowds will return when the shops are open we’ll have to wait and see.
I did see that there were still a number of shop fronts closed on the main street, though fewer than there would be due to the numbers of temporary ‘pop-up’ shops that have appeared.
I walked as far as House of Frazer in Corporation Street and the nicest thing I could think of saying is that it is not even a shadow of Rackham’s, once one of the flag-ship stores in Birmingham.
Lewis’s was also in that position many years ago and left for a good reason. Why they think that coning back to Birmingham at this time is beyond me. Although I may be completely wrong, I’m definitely no expert in this field, but the majority of people shopping in Birmingham City Centre in the last few years are not exactly the sort of people that John Lewis has stated it is aiming at and with the advent of on-line shopping and limited parking and road space in the city centre I can’t see that the people who are their stated, intended clientele would bother going. With no shops available at present, the roads are grid-locked with most cars aiming for the Bullring car parks.
These criticisms are aimed at both the developments at the Mailbox and over New Street Station. With these restrictions and the fact that both centres are due to open at around the same time, we are going to have interesting times.
Coming back to the Saturday gridlocks, I also think that one of the biggest mistakes made in recent years was when the latest incarnation of the Bullring was built. One advantage of the road layout then was that there was an ‘inner ring road’, which could be navigated in either direction. If the road was blocked at any time, then all the traffic could use the rest of the ring. Now the ring road is broken, traffic banned from travelling under the Bullring, except for buses and taxis, all that advantage is gone. With the frequent ‘repairs’, refurbishments and ‘maintenance’ carried out in the tunnels and now road blockades due to development at Paradise, we could really do with having that extra way around, without having to wait in huge queues and take large diversions. It was bad enough having the city Centre developments taking place at the same time as the repairs / renewals on the A38M Expressway and the M6.
After that, I did get something to eat, courtesy of Sainsbury’s and I did exercise my knees. So with stomach full, my knees relatively pain free and my heart heavy I set back to work.