Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bin bags and boxes - update

We made a point of asking some precise questions about this project on Thursday night at the meeting of the Perry Barr Constituency Committee.

The situation is that:
the collection crews are now under very clear instructions to collect from people's properties;
the official colour leaflet that was meant to notify residents of this has not been delivered properly. Many households have not received it.

This means that residents can continue to insist on their rights to have their rubbish and recycling boxes collected from the front of our property. This is important because in our area many residents live up steps and have struggled to carry the boxes down to the road.

To sum up:

  • The refuse collection contracts say collection should be from the property;
  • the council policy says it should be from the property;
  • the crews have been instructed to collect from the property.

So if you have any problems with collection, please let us know!

Most residents in Perry Barr ward know this now because we have nearly completed delivery of our Focus, which goes to every household.

The failure to deliver the leaflets means the second part of the project cannot be implemented for a while. The official leaflets warn that ultimately residents who continue to use the verge to deposit rubbish will be fined.

There've been more mixed messages in other quarters.
For instance I heard that a meeting of elderly residents was given recycling leaflets which tell them to put their boxes on the pavement. These leaflets are wrong! Very unfortunate, also, because these are the very people who need help in putting their boxes out.

The Evening Mail on Saturday states the scheme has been "suspended after residents ignored council notices."

That's misleading. The enforcement side has been suspended but would not in any case have started until a great more work was done to ensure residents understood not to use the pavements and verges - and indeed to ensure the crews were doing collections properly.

The reason for the delay is nothing to do with residents ignoring the official notices and everything to do with non-delivery of the leaflets themselves.

The piece quotes the vice-chair of the constituency committee Cllr Linnecor but was probably written before we clarified things on Thursday night. It may be that ours is the only ward where the councillors are taking the trouble to let residents know of their rights...

Well, it's not unusual for changes to refuse collection to cause mayhem and confusion. Thankfully the recycling schemes introduced in the last couple of years have largely gone without problems. This latest scheme is suffering from a few hiccups - but it also represents a turning of the tide against the the slack practices and tide of detritus that erupted when it became unofficial practice not to collect rubbish from bins.

PS We've now been passed a copy of the "offending" recycling leaflet. In fact it's ambiguous. It states recycling boxes should be left "on the edge of the property as near to the street as possible". This probably means on the end of your drive or footpath but it's far from clear. And residents who are elderly should be able to expect collection of the boxes from their front doors.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New buses

To St Phillips Square this morning for the launch of the new super-express buses that are now running down the Aldridge Road.

Of all the new bus services brought in over the last few months, this is the most exciting.

The new buses will afford luxury travel with leather seats and air freshening systems. The new buses also offer the first glimpse of TWM's new red and white livery. In time all TWM new buses will be incorporated into the National Express fleet - so a simple glance will indicate the quality of a bus.

These buses are travelling on the 997, 993 and 934 routes. So the only draw back is that to catch them you'll have to go to the City University stops at Perry Barr. These buses link Birmingham City Centre with Perry Barr and Walsall and its suburbs. If you can use these stops however you'll find a luxury bus service arriving every few minutes to take you into the city.

Chatting to National Express boss Richard Bowker I learn that the existing Aldridge Road buses - which are already quite good quality - will be shifted on to the new 51X service, which is providing high speed city centre travel from Great Barr and is also proving very popular.

The scale of change in the West Midlands is now so fast that we were graced with the presence of transport minister Rosie Winterton MP for the launch.

More good news came with the announcement that the new bus routes launched over the autumn are picking up more passengers, with increases ranging from eight per cent to ten per cent. That's terrific when you consider that on the Queslett Road, 451, there have been fairly small changes including new buses and bus shelters. And the improved 377 service, Walsall to Sutton Coldfield, has attracted its fair share of controversy because it got linked to changes in some other local bus services in the Kingstanding area.

Travelling to the city centre this morning in the wake of the rush hour it was possible to see the impact of small changes. While cars got stuck at Newtown and traffic continued to pile up, the buses zipped by on the bus lanes.

TWM's attention is now shifting to Dudley and the Black Country. So there's still a great deal of improvement to be made in Birmingham. But it's still gratifying, during my short time as Passenger Transport Authority lead member for buses, to be involved in so much progress.