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Unique East-West Midlands alliance to transform public transport

Unique East-West Midlands alliance to transform public transport

🕔22.Sep 2014

Businesses and councils across the East and West Midlands are co-operating in a unique initiative that could transform poor rail and road links between the two regions.

Midlands Connect will present the Government with statistical evidence showing how speeding up journeys to and from the Midlands’ big cities with better transport infrastructure would pay for itself by creating jobs and boosting economic growth.

The project is led by 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships and has the support of council leaders. The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority backed the idea last week.

The move is under-pinned by the once in a generation opportunities that will flow from HS2 as well as by scores of development sites identified in the LEPs economic plans where better connectivity is needed to maximise employment potential.

High speed rail will bring development in its wake and create employment in Birmingham and the West Midlands, but it’s feared that poor transport links from east to west may make it difficult for many people to access the new jobs.

According to research by consultants Steer Davies Gleave, ten road sections in the West Midlands are among the 100 slowest journeys in the UK with congestion along the M6 and the M42 particularly high.

Other gridlocked areas include the M1, the A43 between Northampton and Kettering, the A46 between the M1 and the M5 and the A50 between Stoke and Derby.

Urban congestion is also rising. Based on the index TomTom, Birmingham is the 25th worst city in Europe for delayed journeys, with a four per cent worsening of the index between 2012 and 2013.

Peak hour rail services are already running at capacity between most of the large Midland cities. Train services between the East and West Midlands are either slow, or in some cases non-existent.

Examples of frustrating journeys include:

  • Train services between Nottingham and Birmingham take 103 minutes
  • Travelling from Stoke to Derby by train takes 92 minutes
  • There are few direct services between Coventry and Leicester and no direct trains from Coventry to Walsall or Dudley
  • From Telford to Walsall, the rail journey time is 70 minutes as opposed to 28 minutes by car.

More than 100,000 commuters a day head into and out of Birmingham for work. Most come from the Black Country, Tamworth, Lichfield and Bromsgrove.

The majority of workers travel to Coventry from Nuneaton, Bedworth, Warwick, Rugby and Solihull. About five per cent of commuters come from Stoke-on-Trent.

Solihull attracts workers from Birmingham, but also Bromsgrove, Tamworth, Warwick and Sandwell.

The employment pool in Wolverhampton benefits from a significant inflow of commuters from South Staffordshire and Telford, as well as from the other Black Country regional centres.

The Steer Davies Gleave report calls for a new strategic focus on joining up Midland towns and cities: “Midlands Connect’s focus is on national strategic road and rail networks. It is about connecting the towns and cities in the Midlands to each other, and to national and international gateways to realise to the full the region’s economic growth potential.

“It is about moving people and goods. Only a pan-Midlands approach will secure all the necessary investment in these strategic networks that our economy needs. Identifying, prioritising and then securing this investment is Midland Connect’s mission.”

Andrew Cleaves, chair of the West Midlands cross-LEP Transport Group, said: “Whilst incredibly important to our region, if our economy is to reach its full potential, HS2 alone will not meet the Midlands’ connectivity needs.

“Our road and rail strategic transport networks need to give people the access they need to job opportunities and the education and training they may need to develop their skills.

“They need to reflect the trading hours and patterns of movement of a 21st Century economy. They need to meet the needs of our firms to access their suppliers and to get their goods to their customers. Realising this goal is what Midlands Connect is all about.

“To be successful Midlands Connect must be rooted in evidence. The successful planning and delivery of an enhanced strategic transport networks takes time. It requires an in-depth understanding of the latest thinking on economic forecasting and modelling to ensure our strategic networks are capable of meeting our region’s economic needs over the next 30 years.”

The LEPs involved in Midlands Connect are: Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire, Worcestershire, The Marches, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Leicester and Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, South East Midlands.

 

Picture: London Midland train travelling through Northampton on the West Coast Mainline

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