It’s tough up ‘North’

Today’s whinge is about the NEC.  I expect it’s all been said before, but I was never averse to a bit of plagiarism…

The other night we had the delight of going to see Bryan Adams, but this is not about his concert, except to say it was superb – as usual!

No: this is about the monkeys that designed the NEC’s traffic layout.  I know it was a few years ago, and Birmingham was deemed to be the ‘City of the Car’, but surely even Brummers must get out of their cars sometimes!

So: we arrive and get led, by the signs and by the nose, along Pendigo Way to the East car park.  Turn at the roundabout… and the next… I’m sure you know the scenario.  Then into E4: the southern-most of the car parks on the East Car Park (ECP) Road.

Pay at the booth and take a bus.  No problems so far: it’s busy, but not outstandingly so.  We opted for the bus (probably as intended by the ‘Designer’) since there were no visible signposts telling us where the Genting Arena actually was.  Anyway, after a couple of minutes we were deposited at the Arena and in we went.

So far, so unexciting.  It was afterwards that things got a bit odd.  As we came out, the queue for the bus was ginormous, so, being (relatively) young and (relatively) fit we decided to walk.

I looked for signs to E4 car park: not an easy thing to do in the dark when getting ushered along by thirty thousand other people…  Eventually, I spotted a sign for ‘East Car Parks’ and followed those thirty-thousand clockwise around the Pendigo Lake.

It was, as you can probably imagine, fairly busy.  The crowd were disciplined and good-natured, but at times we were stuck in a stationary mass reminiscent of the good old days getting out of Wembley and heading for the underground.  At last, the latest choke-point allowed us through and, slightly frustrated by the slow pace, we set off along a branch path to the right.  This took us to the Hilton.  We weren’t staying there so we nipped round the service road to the roundabout at the junction of Perimeter Road and Pendigo Way.

The huge, shuffling crocodile who’d kept to the main path were disappearing into the bowels of the Earth to reappear on the far side of ECP road.  We were faced with trying to cross Pendigo Way.

Luckily, even Birmingham drivers seem to need to slow down at roundabouts (occasionally, at least), so, taking lives in hands, we nipped across during a momentary lull in the traffic.  We then had to brave a similar crossing of ECP Road to get onto the path on the far side.  So, at last, we reached the car and escaped.

It still strikes me as odd that a place like the NEC seems to have been laid out by an idiot.  Later inspection of the maps indicates that there seems to be just ONE underpass (well, two actually, but on the same path and under adjoining roads) to allow pedestrians to cross the extremely busy (especially at the start and end of concerts…) Pendigo way.  The map also indicates that turning right out of the Genting Arena would get you back to the E4 car park in half the distance:  The path skirts the lake anticlockwise and disgorges you onto the Pendigo Way opposite the E5 car park, where there is actually a pedestrian crossing.

However, there is no safe way to cross East Way between the E5 car parks and the E1-4 car parks: you have to dice with death…  It seems to me that very little thought has been given to the easy movement of large numbers of pedestrians.  At the very least, there should be a lot more pedestrian crossings (or, better, underpasses or footbridges) allowing pedestrians to get about without having to mix it with traffic: especially Birmingham traffic, which seems almost as aggressive as in the Metropolis…

The sensible option would be to have at least one wide, well-marked loop path round Pendigo Lake and crossing to the East car parks by at least two separate underpasses.  Then signpost the damn’ thing slowing the SHORTEST way to each of the ‘attractions’.

Additionally, why didn’t the designers provide a separate network of bus-ways so that the buses could also get about without having to get involved with long stationary queues of cars?  Maybe Birmingham could even be dragged kicking and screaming into the twentieth century with a tramway or a monorail…  After all, the NEC must be raking in money hand over fist if the parking charges are anything to go by!

Maybe a few bob could be diverted from the billions they plan to spend on HS2 to reduce the London-Birmingham transit time by a couple of minutes to make it easier to use a more ancient method of locomotion then the bloody motor-car!

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