The Birmingham Post is organising a major infrastructure summit – bringing together prominent decision-makers to examine what the future holds with hundreds of millions being invested.
The future for roads, rail and airports, as well as ‘smart cities’, will be on the agenda with head of Infrastructure UK Geoffrey Spence and Rick Robinson, IBM’s executive architect for Smarter Cities, among the speakers.
Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore will also unveil his 10-year vision for roads, rail, bus, cycle and tram development in the city at the event. Following on from the Government’s announcement to invest £100 billion in major projects, infrastructure has never been a more prominent subject. Issues like airport capacity, road charging, managed motorways and high-speed rail taking up many column inches in this paper and drawing massive investment in the coming years.
The Birmingham Post infrastructure summit will take place at Edgbaston cricket stadium on October 31 and will feature keynote addresses from leading lights in local and national government – with names to be revealed in the Post in the coming weeks and months.
The Post is leading the summit but is backed by parent group Trinity Mirror, which includes more than 130 regional and national daily and weekly newspapers and 500 digital products, to deliver an event on a national stage.
One of the keynote speakers will be Geoffrey Spence, chief executive of Infrastructure UK, a Government scheme designed to kick-start crucial infrastructure projects. Mr Spence has a background in infrastructure finance in Deutsche Bank and HSBC and was previously a personal economic adviser to then Chancellor Alistair Darling.
Attendees will also hear the long-awaited transport and sustainable urban mobility strategy for Birmingham from Sir Albert.
Fellow speaker Rick Robinson is responsible for the development and delivery of Smarter City solutions for IBM’s customers in the UK and Europe.
The chair of the Digital Working Group for Birmingham Science City, he is one of the UK’s most prominent experts on smart cities and a major force in ambitious plans to re-invent the city for a broadband era.
Birmingham Post regional head of business Graeme Brown said the event had been timed to coincide with some major movements – like the Davies Commission on airport capacity and progress with HS2.
He said the West Midlands is at the heart of many of these developments, but this was a national event covering priorities up and down the country.
He said: “Infrastructure is the watchword for businesses at the moment and a lot of directors and company owners want to know more about the opportunities.
“With economies stagnating, infrastructure development offers the most feasible route to growth – and we are starting to see signs that the Government is pushing this agenda.
“Hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested in motorways and high-speed rail, and everyone is keen to find the solution to the country’s aviation capacity issues, and meanwhile there are many political changes behind the scenes.
“We have a new Cabinet Office committee, chaired by Nick Clegg, that is there to drive growth nationally, and regionally, local enterprise partnerships have started to work together to outline transport plans.
“We aim to put a spotlight on the opportunities and debate the issues, resulting in a mission plan to send to Government about how infrastructure investment could be used to drive forward the economy.”
Council leader Sir Albert will set out a long term vision to combat the city’s over-reliance on private cars at the summit that will include a 3D plan for transport options – walk, cycle, bus, car and Metro – that acknowledges future land use and movement around/in/out of the city.
Sir Albert said: “I intend to develop an integrated urban mobility framework to connect people, businesses and jobs, which will set out a long-term vision and short-to-medium-term steps towards this from our current position of over reliance on private cars.”
Andy Street, chairman of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) said the summit offered an “excellent platform” to debate infrastructure possibilities.
He said the Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone, which has the potential to create 40,000 jobs over the 25 years, as well as schemes like Beorma and Arena Central, meant it was a key time for the region.
He said: “Major investments in infrastructure in the GBSLEP – most notably within the Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone, HS2 and Birmingham Airport – present major opportunities for Greater Birmingham.
“These are not investments that we are hoping – they are actually happening. The challenge for us is to make the most of this opportunity.
“The Birmingham Post summit will be an excellent platform for discussion and debate about these opportunities and the parts everyone can play in achieving the best outcomes.”
The launch of the summit comes against a backdrop of plans to boost the economy through infrastructure spending.
Chancellor George Osborne said a £100 billion investment in new infrastructure projects will help “raise our national game” and promote the elusive growth that has plagued the British economy.
The Chancellor said: “Successive governments of all colours have put short-term pressures over the long-term needs and refused to commit to capital spending plans that match the horizons of a modern economy,” he said.
“Today we change that. From roads to railways, bridges to broadband, science to schools.”
In his Spending Review statement, the Chancellor restated the commitment made in the Budget in March to £300 billion of capital spending by 2020, telling MPs £50 billion of that would be spent in 2015/16, the year covered by the spending review.
That was more on average as a proportion of national income over the decade than between 2000 and 2010, he said, as he sought to counter criticisms he has failed to do enough to spur growth.
However, Labour said the promises rang hollow – claiming work had begun on only one of the 261 schools in need of rebuilding or refurbishment and just seven of 576 major infrastructure projects had been finished, with 80 per cent not yet begun.
Just 2,000 homes had been built under the Government’s New Buy guarantee scheme, of a hoped-for 100,000, Labour leader Ed Miliband said.
John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “Infrastructure is rightly singled out as the most effective engine for growth, as we urged.
“While the Government talks a good game on infrastructure we’ve seen too little delivery on the ground so far.
“It is critical we see a real pipeline of projects announced tomorrow, so investors know what schemes are going ahead, where and when.”
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group welcomed the announcement, as well as the Chancellor’s continued support for the high speed rail line, HS2.
Chamber president Steve Brittan said: “This will bring welcome news for employment in the area, particularly for the construction industry and we await details with interest.”
* Visit yoursummit.co.uk to register for the event