Following last week’s blog about Queensland Rail and the Commonwealth Games I was contacted by someone praising the British approach to public transport for sporting events. When I stopped laughing, I wondered what events they meant. Surely not the Champions League final in Cardiff last year, when Cardiff Central was closed to local trains? Could it be matches at the Emirates stadium when fans are not allowed to use the nearest tube, Holloway Road, because it doesn’t have escalators? What about Coventry’s Ricoh Arena where a new station opened in 2016 but cannot be used for events because the train company is unable to provide more than one single-car service each hour?
The next Commonwealth Games will be in my native Birmingham. The nearest station to Birmingham City’s stadium is Bordesley, served by one train per week. Eight services pass through every hour in each direction, without stopping. Occasionally football specials are added but these are rare, due to the costs and complexities of obtaining trains and track access with the frequent risk of rail replacement buses due to alleged engineering work. This Easter, whilst Brisbane commuters face a reduced service, there will be no trains serving Bristol Temple Meads, the largest station in the south west of England for the whole weekend. Both football clubs in the city have home games scheduled.
Birmingham has four years to prepare a decent transport plan and Queensland Rail has seven weeks to prove the value of its contingency measures. Let the games begin.