A better Midlands transport system is the key to increasing productivity in the country, business leaders were told yesterday.

Jerry Blackett, policy director at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry and chairman of the West Midlands Business Transport Group, said moving goods and services speedily through the region was vital.

Speaking at Breakfast Connection, the business event organised jointly by the BCI and lobby group Birmingham Forward, he said: "We shall know by July when the feasibility study into demand management reports whether we think road pricing can make a contribution to increasing productivity through a reduction in traffic congestion.

"July will not result in something happening in August. But politicians will decide in the autumn whether to go further into the subject depending on what the feasibility study says.

"By the end of July we want to satisfy ourselves on a very critical issue. If we were to introduce road pricing, what would that do for the competitiveness of the region?

"What would that do for jobs, what would that do towards tackling the £2.5 billion worth of congestion we have in the region?

"The view of the business world is that if it will improve our competitiveness then pricing for roads is a serious opportunity. But we do not want to become the most expensive region to do business.

"We can't pre-judge the results of the study but we are taking it very seriously and we do sit on the top group steering the work. So business is right in the thick of this very important stage.

"We in Birmingham, at the heart of the country, will stand a very good chance of winning that Government money."

Mr Blackett went on: "But the transport debate is not just about the Midlands, it is about east-west-north-south links in the UK. You get Birmingham right and you get the country right too."

The UK transport infrastructure had suffered 30 years of neglect and to put it right would probably take another 20 years.

"We have suffered from transport being passed from one government to another. We need a 30-year plan that crosses parliaments, crosses governments and is up there with education and health as a priority."

And Mr Blackett attacked the planning procedures.

"Why does it take 21 years to build the Toll Road in Birmingham? Because it takes 19 years talking about it and then only two years to build it.

"The planning processes in this country are still far too slow. For instance, if you want to do anything about the M42 junction near the NEC, the last time we counted there are 16 different agencies to deal with to make a decision."