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LEPs join forces to launch West Midland transport improvement wish list

LEPs join forces to launch West Midland transport improvement wish list

🕔14.Apr 2014

West Midland Local Enterprise Partnerships have responded to a Government request to demonstrate closer working relationships by agreeing shared transport priorities and issuing a wish list of improvements they would like to see.

The six LEPs released a joint statement setting out areas of improvement in the road, rail and tram network they believe are necessary to drive economic growth.

At the heart of the plan lies an ambition to improve links to the planned HS2 high speed rail stations and developing freight activity at Birmingham Airport.

The statement has been prepared alongside the Strategic Economic Plans (SEPs) submitted to Government last week by each of the LEPs.

The SEPs detail how each LEP plans to drive economic growth in their area and includes a bid to Government for Local Growth Fund investment.

In the Greater Birmingham & Solihull SEP, more than £340 million-worth of transport projects – including three extensions to the Midland Metro and a package of connectivity improvements for the former Longbridge car factory site in south Birmingham – were listed as priorities for support from the Local Growth Fund.

The six LEPs which have signed the statement are the Black Country, Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Coventry & Warwickshire, the Marches, Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

The statement reflects Government wishes to see greater cross-boundary co-operation between LEPs.

It asks the Government for the necessary resources and support to deliver long-term sustainable economic growth off the back of a vastly improved transportation system.

Andrew Cleaves, chairman of the West Midlands Cross-LEP Transport Group, said: “Transport is an economic issue that unites neighbouring LEP areas and we realise that investment in collective transport priorities will improve the movement of people, goods and services throughout the region and between key centres, providing businesses with access to its required skills and workforce.

“Clearly, transport plays a key role in rebalancing the economy and can only be achieved by working in collaboration, building on our strengths and exploiting the opportunities presented to our region.

“We have the highest proportion of companies in England leading the nation’s export-led economic recovery which is seen in the strength of our advanced manufacturing sector.

“The six LEPs are committed to improving regional and local links to HS2 in order to maximise the economic benefits across the West Midlands region, and to help release capacity on the already congested local transport networks.

“Access to developing markets is of great importance to our exporters, thus we see the development of regional airports as being critical to link us to these markets.

“We asking Government to Government to prioritise investment in our transport network and to work with us to release sustainable long term economic growth built on our proven success.”

The joint statement makes the economic case for tackling congestion on the roads.

It says: “Road congestion has disproportionately higher impacts on road freight movements. Whilst road freight accounts for just six per cent of all road trips, the impact of road congestion on those freight movements costs our economy some £600 million per year, almost a quarter of the annual cost of road congestion to our economy of £2.2 billion.

“Our rail network must therefore be capable of accommodating the continuing increase in passenger numbers and catering for growth and new flows in all sectors of the rail freight market, which is critical to exports, especially the intermodal sector that is forecast to continue to grow at 11 per cent per annum.

“Developing freight activity at Birmingham Airport will reduce costs and relieve pressure on the stretched infrastructure at and around Heathrow Airport. Birmingham Airport could be developed to cater for 800,000 tonnes of freight traffic annually, improving efficiency for local business. Key to this will be the continued provision of adequate surface access. Other regional airports also have the potential to serve our businesses.”

The statement asks the Government for the following measures to be put into place:

  • In order to develop and deliver key infrastructure, LEPs need longer term allocations and planning horizons, with the flexibility to realign financial resources to optimise the delivery of transport priorities;
  • Our LEPs have strong links with key partners, including Network Rail and the Highways Agency, and need stronger direct input into their investment programmes to ensure that national and local investment is better aligned to release economic growth and allow these partnerships to develop;
  • LEPs need to be included in the shaping of future aviation policy, and in particular the development of a National Infrastructure Statement on aviation post the 2015 election.

The LEPs make a number of specific requests around improving the West Midlands motorway network, including asking for the Managed Motorway system of hard-shoulder running to be extended across all motorways.

They also suggest a £10 million annual payment by the owners of the M6 Toll to the Department for Transport to cover land purchase costs should be diverted to accelerate the delivery of strategic transport improvements in the West Midlands.

See the full Cross-LEP transport here.

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