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Showdown talks over controversial A34 sprint bus plans

Walsall | Transport | Published:

Controversial plans for new rapid bus lanes to be created on the A34 through Walsall and Great Barr will be discussed this week.

Terry Pauley, far left, Gary Hickman, Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood and Annette Pereira. Picture: Elaina Cohen

Protesters from the A34 Action Group will meet officials from the West Midlands Combined Authority about their ongoing concerns.

Last year plans were unveiled to construct a £110 million rapid bus network in part to improve public transport ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The first route will run on the A34 from Walsall, through the Scott Arms junction at Great Barr, to Birmingham city centre.

It would pass the future site of the Athletes Village and the Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr.

Original plans were for a slip road separating homes and businesses along the Walsall Road from the A34 to be removed, something which the A34 Action Group has protested heavily against.

Last month the combined authority did announce that, following a public consultation, they would re-examine proposals for each of the routes, including plans for the Walsall Road.

And leaders from each side are set to meet on Friday to discuss the proposals.

An artist's impression of what the sprint buses could look like on the A34

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Speaking about the meeting Annette Pereira, leader of the A34 Action Group, said: “We’re very pleased that the meeting’s happening.

“We’re fighting this because, plain and simple, they haven’t done a consultation that satisfies us.

"They’ve tried to railroad it through, and we’re unhappy with how they’ve approached everything.

“I wouldn’t call it a negotiation, because we’ve fought quite long and hard and I don’t think we should be negotiating.

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"We’ve got nothing to negotiate. Our position is we still do not recognise that the consultation was legal and valid.

"So that is our strongest card and that is our main focus, because everything else just leads on from them.

“They say they’ve done a full consultation, but they haven’t, and it’s obvious that their questionnaire was a leading questionnaire.

"The way they approached people with disabilities, too, was wrong.

“All they did was send a group email to people who remotely might have something to do with people with disabilities, just with a ‘What is Sprint’ headline. That’s not consultation, it’s a joke.

“So I’m not saying that we wouldn’t look at other plans – we don’t think it is necessary, but if they’re determined to waste this money then so be it.

“But there are certain red lines that we have. One is not taking away the slip road out the front of the houses along the Walsall Road, for safety, and one is holding a proper consultation.”

The combined authority insists that a full consultation was carried out, saying that “many hundreds of residents, businesses and commuters have taken part in the consultation”.

By Tom Dare

Local Democracy Reporter

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