Business leaders in Birmingham have maintained the decision not to introduce road pricing in exchange for Transport Innovation Fund cash will not harm the region’s economic development.
Greater Manchester is pressing ahead with the scheme and will receive £2.8 billion towards funding public transport improvements.
The Department for Transport has created the £2 billion Transport Innovation Fund to offer funding to areas wanting to develop and implement road-pricing schemes as well as to improve public transport services in areas with road pricing.
However, earlier this year, councils in the West Midlands ruled out road pricing. Leaders of the seven metropolitan councils claimed they were not convinced congestion charging would be beneficial for the region.
They said it could damage economic competitiveness, particularly in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, and it was unlikely that better public transport could be put in place before any charging pilots began.
The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the feeling in the West Midlands was that charging people to drive into the main conurbations would have an adverse effect on local businesses and harm the region’s competitiveness nationally.
Chamber policy adviser Katie Teasdale said: “We were at the forefront of the work that examined whether road pricing was a viable option for the West Midlands and to put it bluntly, the research undertaken suggested there was no competitive advantage for Birmingham arising from the proposals.
“It is not surprising given the huge size of the investment that Manchester will receive that there are a few recriminations flying around today but it is right, having discovered that road pricing would not work for us at this point in time and outside a national scheme, that we focus on what transport infrastructure development we do need and how we can fund that.”
She added it remained disappointing that the Government was distributing vital funds only where authorities would introduce road pricing regardless of wider need.
“We need to respond positively to this as a region and work together to be more innovative in terms of acquiring funding for larger schemes,” she added.
The Chamber said there was still plenty of work to be done to ease congestion and plenty of cost-effective ideas that could be implemented in the short-to-medium term.
Conservative leader David Cameron has said that the West Midlands councils should have access to the £2 billion TIF pot regardless of whether they want to progress congestion charging.
He accused ministers of blackmailing councils by trying to force them into introducing road-pricing against their will.
Meanwhile, passenger transport authority Centro said the decision not to pursue TIF funding was based on technical evidence contained in the report ‘Tackling Congestion, Delivering Growth’, which showed that road pricing was not suitable for the city region at this time.
“The evidence found that road pricing in the region would deliver mixed results in terms of reducing congestion. It also found that, in some parts of the city region, competitiveness could be damaged by road pricing,” Centro said it a statement. This decision was based on the specific transport circumstances of the West Midlands and has no bearing on decisions for other regions.
“The region is currently working to deliver a transport system to support the region’s ambitious strategy for growth, housing and regeneration and is looking to build upon the success it has had in terms of inward investment and securing funding for major transport schemes, such as the Birmingham International Airport runway extension, railway investment and the Metro extension,” it added.