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Towards an integrated transport policy

University of Birmingham/City-REDI

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to provide insight on the findings of the Birmingham Economic Review.

The Birmingham Economic Review 2019 is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and is a high quality resource for organisations seeking to understand Birmingham to inform research, policy or investment decisions.

This post is featured in the full Birmingham Economic Review 2019 and the Summary Review. These are available here.

Connectivity is an essential part of any transport system. It provides and maintains a link between two or more different places. Road transport connectivity is achieved by creating an efficient road network that is also part of an integrated transport strategy. The quality and speed of linkages between nodes within a transport network are key factors that drive economic performance enhancing the quality of everyday living.

Investment in the Strategic Road Network (SRN) can support economic growth through improving productivity including reducing unemployment and increasing labour supply by linking concentrations of skill labour with employment opportunities. Enhancing regional and inter-regional connectivity facilitates agglomeration economies and increasing competition and encourages private sector investment.

The M6, M5, M42 and M40 are key road linkages that are part of the SRN. Moreover, 91% of businesses in England are located within 15km of the SRN. In the West Midlands. A comparison of delays on key road links between 2017 and 2018 identified that some junctions had experienced an increase in average delays whereas others have remained the same. Morning peak time (7.00 am to 10.00 am) for the key route network is generally the busiest time on the network. The sections, which are affected by the lowest speeds, are Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, West Bromwich and Brierley Hill and these are considered to be strategic centres.

Strategic infrastructure investments in the broader transport network should alleviate delays enhancing efficiency and reducing pollution. This type of targeted strategic investment should contribute to catalysing economic growth in the West Midlands including attracting new business and investment. Investing in HS2 will reduce travel times and enhance capacity between London to Birmingham. This is an important element of the West Midlands infrastructure structure and is expected to have significant economic benefits for the region including attracting new businesses and investment and enabling existing businesses to benefit from enhanced connectivity with London and other major UK cities.

One could argue that transport policy across the West Midlands is too focused on HS2. This is unfortunate.  Parts of the region’s key and strategic road network are already experiencing congestion at peak times. What is required is the development of an integrated transport policy designed to reduce congestion, air pollution and to enhance connectivity. Additionally, mitigation measures are required, such as the creation of park and ride schemes to distribute trips between job centres and stations. Other measures such as incentives for business to create more “flexible work” also could reduce congestion. Thus, a strategic integrated transport plan is essential for mitigating negative effects on traffic and congestion and for capitalizing on major infrastructure projects including HS2. Such an integrated approach to regional connectivity must include a focus on improving public transport but also creating streetscapes that encourage walking and cycling.

Developing an integrated approach to regional connectivity is extremely challenging. The WMCA has a major strategic role to play here in aligning key stakeholders ensuring that mobility is enhanced but the negative impacts of transport, including air pollution, are minimised. 

Dr Magda Cepeda Zorrilla
University of Birmingham/City-REDI