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Midland motorway madness: 6 million hours of delays, £80m cost to economy

Midland motorway madness: 6 million hours of delays, £80m cost to economy

🕔10.Aug 2016

Motorists faced a staggering six million hours of delays across the West Midlands’ congested motorway network last year according to new figures.

The snarl-up cost over £80 million in lost time to the UK economy, and on parts of the M6 only 28 per cent of journeys were deemed “acceptable” with average speeds below 30mph at peak times.

The alarming statistics have been published by Midlands Connect, a partnership of 28 councils, 11 local enterprise partnerships, businesses and Government agencies, which has been formed to improve connectivity across the west and east Midlands.

In a policy paper, Picking up the Pace, Midlands Connect warns that poor roads, clogged motorways and over-crowded trains could force businesses to relocate to other parts of the country or leave the UK altogether unless substantial investment in new infrastructure is approved by the Government.

Around one in three businesses may consider moving location if transport issues continue or get worse, rising to almost one in two in the professional services sector, according to the report:

The motorway hub does not currently provide the level of service that our businesses need. The network is fragile and lacking resilience. It suffers from huge variations in traffic flow and as result journey speeds are often slow and extremely variable.

The most common problems on the road network identified by businesses were congestion and delays at key junctions such as M6/M5, M6/M42 and M6/M54 and congestion around the Midlands motorway hub as a whole.

This situation is predicted to deteriorate further due to significant growth in demand, particularly on the eastern side from the new HS2 station, UK Central development, strong passenger growth at Birmingham Airport and growth at Jaguar Land Rover.

The 21km of elevated viaducts carrying the M6 and M5 motorways on the North and Western sides of the Hub are over 40 years old and will require regular heavy maintenance investment going forward, reducing network resilience.

Midlands Connect has welcomed planned Government spending on improving motorways and rail services, but says the programme of investment is not enough:

Whilst the planned investment is critically important it is clear that it is not sufficient to support longer term national economic growth. Given the scale of the Midlands Motorway Hub, its current and future congestion and the importance to the regional, national and international economy there is the need to start feasibility work on the long term options.

Midlands Connect says there is a risk to the delivery of sustained economic growth “because of a lack of scheme development funding to keep a conveyor belt of investment continually fed”.

The paper predicts that the arrival of HS2 high speed train services in Birmingham by 2026 will open up regeneration sites but at the same time expose the Midlands’ poor connectivity because employees will find it difficult to travel to work by public transport.

The construction of HS2, with multiple crossings over the motorway network creates challenges and potential significant opportunities for synergies and efficiencies.

The Birmingham Interchange station and associated UK Central development will significantly increase demand on an already heavily congested M42. Opportunities to work with HS2 to deliver extra capacity during the HS2 construction period need to be explored urgently.

The report estimates that investing in improved transport infrastructure could create 300,000 new jobs across the Midlands, improve productivity by £1.1 billion a year and save businesses £500 million a year.

Improving rail services “will open up the opportunity to transform east-west connectivity across the Midlands and lock in a wider geography of Midlands businesses and people to HS2,” and could unlock development sites to create 250,000 jobs, according to the report.

A survey by Midlands Connect found that:

  • 30 per cent of businesses selected their location on the basis of accessibility to the road or rail networks.
  • Around one in three businesses may consider moving location if transport issues continue or get worse, rising to approaching one in two in the professional services sector;
  • Over half of suppliers for Midlands businesses and 59 per cent of customers are located elsewhere in the UK.
  • Two thirds of businesses consider the road network to be critical or very important to their linkages with suppliers and customers.

Midlands Connect is negotiating with the Government to become a Sub-National Transport Body.

The new body would inherit powers and functions that currently sit with the Transport Secretary which could include agreeing the Roads Investment for the area with Highways England or setting the goals and overseeing delivery of rail franchising and rail network capital investment.

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