18 October 2017
A massive 65 per cent of local businesses believe that traffic congestion is a major problem in the Greater Birmingham region - and is costing an estimated £407 million a year.
That is according to a new survey by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC).
Nearly half of those surveyed (47 per cent) said the volume of commuter traffic was the main cause of congestion, but roadworks (43 per cent) and school traffic (41 per cent) were also cited as key factors.
Businesses surveyed said that the congestion problem was throwing up major issues, and among those were staff punctuality (28 per cent), reduced productivity (21 per cent) and increased costs (19 per cent).
The findings of the Chamber survey mirrors recent research into traffic congestion, one of which (Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard 2016) found that the city was the third most congested in England, and that on average, motorists in the city spent nine per cent of their total journey time in traffic.
In turn, this costs the city a massive £407 million in lost revenue. The report found that nearly half (41 per cent) of journeys in the region were less than two miles in length, a figure slightly higher than the national average (38 per cent).
The Chamber says that the new survey was a response to growing dissatisfaction among members about traffic congestion and the problems it causes.
The organisation says that many of the region’s problems are ‘deep rooted’ and go back to when the current key transport networks were designed, in the early 1960s. This placed the car at the heart of transportation, but half a century later the wheels have literally fallen off this solution.
In the Chamber survey, more than 70 per cent of businesses surveyed wanted to see some form of investment in the region’s transport infrastructure to deal with the congestion crisis.
In particular, just over a third wanted to see greater spending to create more capacity on the roads and a similar figure wanted to see money being spent on creating new railway lines, bus lanes, cycle paths and metro extensions in order to boost public transport usage.
GBCC chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “The issue of congestion has long blighted the West Midlands and is estimated to cost the region billions of pounds per year in lost revenue.
“Nevertheless, over the last few months, it is great to see the Mayor working closely with regional partners such as Transport for West Midlands and various local authorities to ensure the foundations are laid to manage demand, increase capacity and improve traffic efficiency across the region.
“It is vital that the views of the business community are absorbed by local and national stakeholders in order to overcome these long standing problems.”
Senior policy and patron advisor Raj Kandola (pictured) said: “This report shows there is an appetite amongst the business community to tackle and alleviate congestion.
“In particular, our members have made it clear that they want to see greater investment in the transport networks and modernising payment systems to get more people to use public transport. There is also a willingness for firms to consider implementing flexible working policies to help ease traffic flows.
“In the long term, it is clear public sector bodies need to work closely with the business sector to tackle this problem and unlock long term prosperity for the region.”
Among the Chamber’s recommendations for tackling the congestion crisis is urgent investment in the local transport network, to take advantage of the new high speed rail line between the Midlands and London (HS2).
The Chamber said this investment must include significant spending on the ‘ailing road network’ and has demanded similar spending levels to the £2.2bn committed to London and the South East.
However, the Chamber says that this investment alone will not suffice, and is calling for a range of technology led improvements, including an increase in Active Traffic Management systems across the local motorway network.
Better use of technology is also needed to increase usage of public transport, for example the new integrated transport app announced this week by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).
This is the ‘Whim’ app, which encourages people to use transport other than their car by enabling them to pay for their transport over the course of a month as they need it.
Read the report here.