Birmingham & Black Country

Would Birmingham benefit from cable cars?

Map of proposed sites the cable car could link up

In Rio de Janeiro, city visitors can use them to scale Sugarloaf Mountain, in New York they are used to transport people across the East River and in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, they take residents of mountainous areas to the city centre.

Now, if initial discussions come to fruition, cable cars will be used to link up Birmingham's redeveloped New Street, Moor Street and Curzon Street railway stations.

The West Midlands transport authority Centro has directed Birmingham-based architects to look into the feasibility and cost of installing cable cars in the city.

John Lamb, of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said it could be a "novel solution" to the city's increasingly busy streets.

"When I first heard about it though, I thought it was an April Fool's joke at the wrong time of year," he said.

'Stunning addition'

And Mike Olley, manager of Broad Street, one of the city's busiest entertainment areas, describes the idea as "interesting speculation".

Centro was inspired by the opening of the Emirates Air Line cable car network, which links south-east and east London and opened in June.

Image caption In Rio de Janeiro, people can use a cable car to get to the top of the city's Sugarloaf Mountain

Its designers are due to give a presentation to the firm about the development, which was used by those attending London 2012 events.

It links the O2 Arena in Greenwich with the ExCel exhibition centre at the Royal Docks in east London - both of which were Olympic venues.

When it opened, the city's mayor Boris Johnson said it was a "stunning addition to London's transport network" and a "must-see destination in its own right".

Initially, Transport for London (TfL) estimated the cost at £25m and said it would use only private finance to pay for it.

Then the estimate increased to £45m, with TfL saying it would use its own budget, and later rose again to £60m.

Dubai-based airline Emirates is now sponsoring the cable car for 10 years at a cost of £36m.

However, critics of the London project said there were lessons leaders in Birmingham could learn from their experiences.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, said its popularity had significantly dropped off since it opened.

She added that outside of weekends and school holidays the number of people using the Thames cable car was "pitiful".

She said the main problem was that it should have been decided from the beginning of the scheme whether its main aim was as a tourist attraction or a form of transport.

'Gliding over city'

Mr Lamb suggested however, the plan for cable cars in Birmingham could work.

"It just depends on how practical it is, how much it's going to cost and how it's going to be funded," he said.

"It would be a very easy way of getting to the various stations, especially for people carrying a lot of luggage.

"It could be quite nice gliding over Birmingham. At the moment - especially with the German market - it's packed in the city."

Mr Olley said he would be interested to see what happened - and whether Broad Street could be incorporated as a cable car stop.

Rail commuter and campaigner Ben Whitehouse, who travels into Birmingham every day, said there was a "nugget of a really good idea" in the plan.

"The idea of linking the stations together could make connections smoother - but I would actually prefer to see the millions it would cost to set up a cable car link put towards improving our stations," he said.

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