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Frequently Asked Questions

Press Release   •   Jun 17, 2013 15:45 BST

The St Chad’s and Queensway tunnels will be completely closed to all traffic from 19 July to 2 September while essential refurbishment is carried out. The closure will be preceded by four weeks of overnight closures, from 10pm to 6am, and followed by up to two weeks of similar overnight closures.

We have pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions to try and answer any queries you might have ahead of the closures.

If you have a question that is not answered below, click here to contact us.

Which tunnels does the work affect?
The summer closures will affect the A38 St Chad’s and Queensway tunnels. Holloway underpass and the A34 Lancaster tunnel will still be open during these summer closures. Click here for a map.

When are the tunnels closed and how long for?
The St Chad’s and Queensway tunnels will be completely closed to all traffic from 19 July to 2 September. The closure will be preceded by four weeks of overnight closures, from 10pm to 6am, and followed by up to two weeks of similar overnight closures.

We have chosen to do the work over the summer during school holidays when experience tells us that traffic flows are already typically 15-20% lighter and we hope that, by encouraging people to use alternative modes of transport, we can reduce this even further.

Can you guarantee work will only take six weeks?
This is a big project which we have spent a lot of time planning and developing detailed and realistic construction plans.

We have planned the project so that we have got four weeks of overnight closures before the full closure and also two weeks after. We’ll be using these times to carry out the simpler activities and using the six-week block closures purely for the more complex and time consuming activities.

We will be checking our progress on a daily basis and of course will do everything in our power to complete the work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What work will you actually be doing in the tunnels?
At 40-years old, the tunnels are in need of work to enhance their appearance, improve safety and prepare them for the future. Some preparatory work has already been carried during overnight closures of the tunnels.

During the summer closures, we’ll be making some structural modifications, upgrading the fire protection, installing new LED lighting and also improving the general appearance.

Further refurbishment works including new emergency, control and communications systems are being planned for next year.

Are the tunnels dangerous in the current state?
No, but they are 40 years old so we need to do this to keep them safe. They need to be refurbished to ensure they are fit for purpose for the future.

Won’t this cause total chaos? Will it bring the city to a standstill?
We appreciate the work will be an inconvenience but we are working hard to minimise the impact of the disruption by putting an extensive traffic management strategy in place and by working with businesses, public transport providers and residents to prepare in advance of the closures.

What measures have you got in place to manage traffic flow in and around the city during the closures?
We have got an extensive strategy for the management of traffic flows into and around the city during the closures. The plan includes advance notification of the works, strategic signing on motorways/service stations and on trunk roads, signed alternative routes to circumnavigate the city by using the ring road and, at a very local level, diversion routes that avoid the tunnels.

The strategy also encompasses many other factors that aim to minimise traffic disruption including the promotion of a modal shift to other methods of transport such as train, bus and cycling, priority measures for bus services and additional signalling at identified junctions.

During the closures we will also be making full use of the Urban Traffic Control Centre, which is linked to thousands of detector points across the city, to identify peak traffic volumes and ensure traffic flows are optimised. The Traffic Control Centre also has access to over one hundred CCTV cameras that provide live pictures of the highway network to our operators so they can monitor reactive measures in real time.

We will be increasing staffing at the Urban Traffic Control Centre to ensure that we can proactively manage traffic on the network, and identify issues and delays before they significantly impact on people’s journeys.

Working with West Midlands Police, we will have dedicated traffic management teams patrolling the diversion routes. Continuously throughout the block closures they will:-

• Inspect the full diversion routes at least every two hours
• Help motorists to follow diversions
• Assist in dealing with breakdowns, obstructions and any highway defects
• Provide real-time information on traffic conditions for areas not covered by CCTV

How will people get to work?
We are encouraging people to try viable alternatives to driving into the city, be it the train, bus, cycling or walking where possible. Park and ride is also an alternative to bringing your car into the city centre.

Employees should also, where appropriate, speak to their managers about the possibility of flexible working arrangements to help them avoid travelling at peak times.

We do appreciate that there will be circumstances, for example delivery drivers, where bringing a vehicle into the city is unavoidable. For this, there will be alternative routes signed. People are encouraged to plan their journeys in advance.

What have you done to help public transport providers prepare?
We are working closely with the public transport providers and Centro to ensure that they are prepared for the closures and the potential increase in numbers on their services. We have worked with the bus companies to ensure routes take into account the closures and we have put bus priority measures in place where possible.

We have also worked closely with the public transport providers to look at where there is current capacity at Park and Ride sites into the city and where this capacity can be increased by finding additional parking facilities.

Will businesses, already hit by the economic climate, suffer?
We appreciate the work may be an inconvenience to some businesses however we are keen to stress that Birmingham remains open for business during the tunnels closures and that this summer, with a little advance planning, will still be a great time to visit the city.

We looked at a whole range of options for carrying out the work and it has been recognised that doing the work during six week block closures is less disruptive than other options such as extended evening and weekend closures.

By confining the closures to a shorter period of time it avoids interfering with things like Christmas shopping. Doing the work this way also avoids confusion for visitors to the city over the prolonged closing and reopening times of the tunnels.

Although there may be some short term pain during the closures, this project will bring longer term benefits to the city and the businesses based here. The tunnels are a vital part of the city’s road network and this essential work will reduce the risk of unplanned closures in the future. Ultimately, all the work we do in the Birmingham is about making it a better place to live, work, and do business.

What are you doing to help businesses prepare?
We are working closely with the Business Improvement Districts and employers in and around the city to understand the potential economic impact and ensure they are prepared ahead of the closures, including helping them with spreading the message about the closures within their communities. We have developed internal messaging for employees, maps to key locations during the closures and the Smarter Choices team are offering journey planning services to any businesses interested.

We are also working with businesses to help them promote the great reasons why people should visit the city during the summer.

Are you only doing it this way because it is cheaper, rather than it being the best solution?
It is impossible to carry out such a big project without causing some disruption. We looked at a whole range of options - including evening and weekend closures - but this would have taken so much longer, interfering with things like Christmas shopping.

Whilst it does save money to have one six-week closure rather than lots of weekend and night time closures, it also has other advantages as well. It means that any disruption to the city is over in a shorter space of time, as well as being able to coincide with school holidays when peak traffic flows are typically lighter. 

Why not just work at weekends?
If we were to work at weekends and night times only, the work would take a minimum of 25 weeks to complete, spreading the inconvenience over a longer period, for example into the Christmas shopping period.

Will the work cause noise disruption to city centre residents and nearby businesses?
Due to a very tight construction programme and nature of the works being carried out, we will be working in the tunnels 24 hours a day during the six week closures. This does mean that there will be a risk of noise to businesses and residents near to the entrances of the tunnels.

Reasonable measures will be put in place where possible in order to reduce noise nuisance. 

What about visitors or tourists who don’t live in the city?
We are working hard to ensure the messages about the tunnel closures are communicated as widely as possible including through organisations who promote the city as a destination and also through the media in surrounding towns and cities.