The West Midlands was a step closer today to a new #26.6 million hi-tech traffic control system to help cut congestion and keep traffic moving.
West Midlands councils were today delivering a business case for the region's Urban Traffic Control scheme to the Department for Transport.
The project uses the latest computer technology for road networks and traffic lights to improve traffic flows and keep vehicles moving when there is an incident or accident.
If it gets the go-ahead, the hi-tech traffic control scheme will be the largest of its kind in the UK, covering Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
The West Midlands currently has five local traffic control centres across the region which act as the "eyes and ears" of traffic control.
Councillor Roger Lawrence, leader of Wolverhampton Council, said: "This year we have seen congestion rising up the local agenda in the West Midlands.
"We have come to realise that a problem costing our local economy #2.2 billion every year requires intelligent and viable solutions; doing nothing is no longer an option. We are confident in the business case submitted today and it is a clear signal that efforts are being made to tackle this growing problem."
Jerry Blackett, chairman of the West Midlands Business Transport Group and chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: "Road congestion is a blight on the regional economy, costing each business in the region an average of #27,500 per annum.
"A quick and reliable transport infrastructure is one of the key factors that businesses look for when deciding where to locate their premises.
"However, congestion within the West Midlands is currently one of the most significant barriers to future competitiveness and job creation in the region.
"The freeing up our roads by making better use of existing infrastructure is a key objective for business."
Efforts to improve transport infrastructure have suffered a series of setbacks in recent months.
Government approval for the proposed Midland Metro extension in the Black Country has been delayed until 2008, Transport Minister Tom Harris revealed in a recent Commons debate.
The Department for Transport could not give conditional approval until late next year or early in 2008.
This would allow the transport managers to begin inviting bids for the work required.
Final approval would be given only once these had been received, the Minister said.
"At the point at which full approval was given in the past, we have introduced a new approval stage – conditional approval." he said.
In a separate debate, he said a decision on the "Birmingham Gateway" scheme to refurbish of New Street railway station might have to wait until next summer. He said: "The Gateway proposals are also being considered alongside the Department’s current work on what is called the high-level output specification for rail, which will confirm what the Government want railways to deliver in the period from April 2009 to March 2014."
Traffic on roads in the West Midlands conurbation comes to 6,000 vehicles per day per kilometre. Figures for other regions include: Tyne and Wear (5,100 vehicles); Greater Manchester (5,600); West Yorkshire, including Leeds (4,400); Merseyside (4,400); London (6,100)
West Midlanders make 468 trips as car driver each year and 261 as a car passenger
West Midlands residents each walk 177 miles a year on average, less than any other part of England
We each make 67 bus journeys a year, on average
Bus use in the West Midlands is falling. The total distance travelled by bus in the region was 198 million kilometres last year, down from 234 million kilometres in 1995/06, a fall of 15 per cent
Each year West Midlanders make 171 to visit friends – and 211 journeys to go shopping
West Midlands children are also less likely to walk to school than any others outside of London. Only 44 per cent walk