Brummies outraged after Europe's longest bus route which stretches for 26 miles is axed

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Europe's longest bus route which stretches 26 miles around Birmingham and has inspired songs, books and even has its own Twitter account - is facing the axe.

The iconic number 11 bus loops the entire Outer Circle of the city and takes more than two hours to complete from start to finish.

The number 11 has taken up to 50,000 Brummies around the city every day for the last 95 years and is famed for being Europe’s longest bus route.

But the route has been cut in half after roadworks set up as part of a £700million regeneration scheme of the city, caused hour-long delays.

National Express, which runs the service, confirmed it has split the route after it became “almost impossible to maintain reliability” for customers.

The clockwise route which follows the A4040 now ends at Erdington with passengers being required to change buses to complete their journeys.

National Express say the changes, which came into force on July 4, are temporary but passengers and politicians fear the legendary bus route will never come back.

Labour-run Birmingham City Council have come under fire for failing to work with the bus companies to find a solution.

Ongoing works at Perry Barr, Birmingham, which has caused the famous number 11 bus route to be split in two.
Ongoing works at Perry Barr, Birmingham, which has caused the famous number 11 bus route to be split in two.

The row also comes just weeks after the council started charging drivers £8 for entering the new Clean Air Zone in the city.

Conservative councillor Timothy Huxtable, who represents Hall Green South and is shadow cabinet member for transport and the environment, said: “The Number 11 bus service has served the people of Birmingham for 95 years.

“It connects suburbs across the city and provides a reliable means of travel for work, school and leisure.

“It is Europe’s longest urban bus route and iconic for Brummies, carrying more than 50,000 people every day.

“Unfortunately because of Labour’s counter-productive transport policies they have created the death of the Number 11 as a circular service.”

Councillor Robert Alden, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “I know I speak for many residents when I express sadness at the loss of the historic Number 11 bus route being circular.

"Whilst on paper it appears only to be a bus route, the Number 11 has become an integral part of people’s lives and their pasts in Birmingham.

"I have recently spoken to a resident who was disheartened at the end of the circular route and had said that three generations of his family had used it, from his nan going to school on the route, his mom using it as a child to see friends across the city to his sister also using the route to go to school, this is just one of 50,000 stories the number 11 route can be accredited too.

"Residents need travel policies that work for them, the introduction of the LTN in Kings Heath and the removal of the fly over at Perry Barr were clearly cited in the report as reasons the route could no longer be operated in its historic form.

"Despite being warned of this very risk in advance Labour still seem to be failing to hear concerns of residents and we are now left with the consequences of that.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Jon Hunt, who represents Perry Barr which is at the centre of the regeneration plan, said: “The leader of Birmingham City Council promised to make people ‘get out of their cars’.

“In fact what has happened is he has forced them to ‘get off the bus’ because bus services cannot function properly.”

Passengers have also expressed their fury at the plans, which they say have “ripped the heart out” of the city’s unique transport links.

IT manager Brian Sanderson, 30, who normally uses the service to travel to and from work, said: “It’s just appalling to see this route go.

“The council and the bus company might say it’s only temporary but I think that’s rubbish. The number 11 as we knew it is gone forever.

“It might sound strange to people outside Birmingham but everyone knows the number 11.

“It’s a very special route and did put us on the map. My nan often took the route just for
day out around the city. It was that special to people.”

The route, which has it's own Twitter account called RideThe 11, inspired the track "Outer Circle" by Birmingham band Woodbines in 1999.

It even famously featured in a 2009 calendar and was the inspiration for a collection of short stories written by a group of Midlands authors.

Birmingham City Council have said the route will return following the work which is due to end later this year.

Labour councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment, said:
“I have assurances from National Express that the iconic route will be restored in its entirety when these key works are completed, which is due to be in the autumn.”

NUMBER 11 FACTBOX
Date introduced – April 26, 1926
Length – 26 miles (43km)
Time to complete – Two hours 20 minutes
Number of stops – 266 bus stops
Schools served – 233 schools, colleges, universities
Landmarks passed – Cadbury’s factory, Birmingham Prison.