Government plans for a huge increase in house building would have to go hand in hand with massive transport improvements, the West Midlands Business Council has warned.
The business organisation, responding to a call for evidence for a planning inquiry set to start later this month into plans for 400,000 new homes across the region, said road congestion remains a huge issue for businesses in the region.
“There is a vital need to improve road capacity on the road network at some key junctions and along some link roads such as with the M40 Junction 15 (Longbridge), M1 Junction 19 (the junction of the M1, M6 and A14), A46/A45 (Tollbar) and M6 Junction 1 to Junction 4,” said the Council.
“Now that the Government has backed the option of M6 widening through Staffordshire this work needs to be progressed as soon as possible.
“There is also a need to improve the pace of work to enable the transport of freight by upgrading the routes between Birmingham to Felixstowe and Southampton, especially as a potential rise in business growth may be a consequence of an expanded house building programme.”
On buses, it states: “Services across the region, in the main, are failing to be an effective and reliable transport mode. The system of bus deregulation may have aggravated these difficulties.
“Even in the internationally recognised city of Birmingham bus services are not effective or regular throughout the night despite the growth of business tourism and commercial activity in the city. The problems with bus travel are a hindrance to the effectiveness of the hospitality sector.”
And on rail, it maintains: “One significant improvement to help rail traffic flows would be the introduction of the Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). “While this would not necessarily mean that the long term need for four tracking to improve capacity at Birmingham New Street Station is not required, ERTMS could go a long way to improve the reliability and performance of rail services.”
In the submission, WMBC welcomes the decision to consider the wider ramifications of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) in the light of the significance and scale of the proposed developments.
It goes on: “It is concerned that without addressing the additional transport needs that will arise from the scale of the housing developments, the impact of transport difficulties for the regional economy would only deteriorate.”
The report goes on: “For firms in the West Midlands region – at the heart of the country – the transport congestion and poor infrastructure is being felt every day. This is despite the fact that being located in the Midlands should provide geographical advantages – from just in time deliveries to developing the logistics and professional services sectors.
“We need to factor in transport improvements to cope with this increase in house building. Current transport integration is ineffective.”
The planning inquiry starts on April 28 and ends on June 26 after which the inspector will produce a report for the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Hazel Blears.