The three big business centres of the midlands, Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham, are experiencing their greatest phase of growth in years, as capital and talent continues to gravitate towards these world-class cities. However, despite the economic growth of the region being recognised on the national stage, little has been done so far to bring the infrastructure of these three cities up to scratch so that they fit the needs of a booming 21st century British city.
Urban centres in the midlands, and in particular Birmingham, have long had a dogged reputation for apocalyptic levels of traffic and congestion, and the need to invest in smart public transport as ever more young graduates make these cities their home is more urgent than ever. Let’s have a look at the current state of public transport in the biggest cities in the Midlands, and see how they compare.
Best to start with the biggest. Birmingham now has a population of well over 1 million, making it the second biggest city in the UK by quite a long shot. However, anyone who works in the city centre will not hesitate to lament the fact that there exists no London-style Tube system or Manchester tram network, or Newcastle Metro, despite the size and wealth of the city. Overlooking the notorious ring road system which has been the waking nightmare of motorists since time immemorial, Birmingham has one of the most extensive bus routes in the country, with the famous Route 11 being the longest bus journey in all of Europe! There is also the small but fairly efficient West Midlands “Metro”, a light rail system which connects the commuter belt to the city centre.
Nottingham was once notorious for having one of the most threadbare public transport networks in the country. However, a spree of heavy investment at the turn of the century has given Nottingham a transit network more in line with the needs of a modern city. The Nottingham Express Transit is a super fast, efficient and extensive tram network which, best of all, is completely affordable. The fact that public transport is actually more popular than driving in Nottingham is a testament to the tram system, which has improved quality of life as workers can spend their commute relaxing on the spacious trams and doing things other than screaming at pedestrians and cyclists. The average commuter in Nottingham, compared to their stressed-out neighbours in Brum, are more likely to spend their commute reading, listening to music or even playing slot games, which you can now do on your phone and on the go. This difference has tangible benefits, as Notts was recently ranked by The Guardian as one of the best places to work in the UK!
As far as public transport goes, there is unfortunately not a whole lot to say for Leicester, despite recently being ranked one of the best cities in the UK for young people to move to. The Byzantine road network means congestion is common, and the only public transport is a series of privately-run bus routes, which happen to charge the highest fares of the three cities mentioned here. Sorry Leicester, you need to up your game.
And the winner is: Nottingham by a country mile!