Improving road and rail links across the Midlands could unlock more than £1 billion of extra economic growth a year and create 300,000 new jobs, delegates at a transport conference have heard.
The Intermodal conference in Nottingham was told how the Midlands Connect project was developing a region-wide transport strategy to power the Midlands Engine, driving economic growth and jobs and ultimately a better quality of life for the people of central England.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council and member of the Midlands Connect board, said speeding up journey times across the region, and in particular between the east and west Midlands, could also yield local business savings of £460 million a year.
More than 200 senior decision-makers from the road, rail and air sectors are attending the two-day event, which closes today (Tuesday June 21) at the Nottingham Conference Centre.
Delegates have been looking at ways of developing efficient and integrated transport networks capable of tackling congestion and poor air quality caused by increasing urbanisation.
Cllr Lawrence said that with 11.5 million people, 15 cities, 27 universities, 23 science parks and three international airports, the Midlands offered unparalleled economic opportunities.
“Our region makes an annual contribution to the British economy of more than £222 billion a year and accounts for 16 per cent of all UK exports,” he said.
“But we also suffer significant transport challenges which can impact not just on our competitiveness but that of the wider UK economy.
“The strategic plan being developed by Midlands Connect aims to tackle those constraints and capitalise on HS2 by making sure we have the right infrastructure connections to get the maximum benefits possible from it.”
The conference heard how the Midlands Connect partnership included 28 local authorities and 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships from across the region, speaking with one voice to help secure the necessary investment in road, rail and freight improvements.
Cllr Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Business, Growth and Transport at Nottingham City Council, gave an overview at the conference of the work under way in Nottingham to improve people’s transport choices, from new tramlines and bus services to smart ticketing and cycling improvements.
“Good transport infrastructure and services play a big part in encouraging growth, inward investment and providing access to jobs,” he said.
“It’s important within our cities but also between them and we’re keen to work with partners across the region to make sure we’re as well connected as we can be so that the whole of the Midlands can reach its full potential.”
The strategic plan being developed by Midlands Connect is due to be published in March next year and will serve as the transport component powering the Midlands Engine, setting out credible, long-term investment priorities to help unlock growth and jobs.
- Midlands Connect is a partnership of 28 local authorities across the East and West Midlands, Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 Ltd, 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships and the wider business community. The partnership, which also includes the Department for Transport as an associate member, is due to publish its transport strategy in March 2017.
- The Midlands has:
- A third of all UK manufacturing jobs
- Exports worth £50 billion a year – 16% of all UK exports
- 27 universities with links to emerging sectors
- A population of 11.5 million set to grow by 10% over the next 20 years
- A travel time within four hours to 90 per cent of UK businesses
- The UK’s biggest pure freight airport at East Midlands
- Birmingham Airport – one of just seven in the UK to serve more than 10 million passengers a year
- Research carried out by Midlands Connect has shown that cutting journey times on key Midland routes by 20 per cent over the next 20 years could yield local business savings of £460 million a year, increase annual economic activity in the region by £1.1 billion, create 306,000 additional jobs and benefit the labour market by £33 million a year.
- The Government’s Midlands Engine prospectus sets out a vision for an economy focused on productivity and driven by getting the most out of the Midlands’ workforce, research and transport.