Business leaders in Birmingham have said the Government needs to radically rethink its transport strategy after the city was joined by Manchester in rejecting plans for a congestion charge.
And the Chamber called for the formation of a regional transport board to let Birmingham decide its own traffic management plans.
Voters in Manchester emphatically rejected the plans to put a charge on rush hour traffic, despite the offer of a £3 billion investment from the Government’s transport fund.
Jerry Blackett, the chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Government should accept the congestion charge idea was dead in the water and radically rethink its ideas.
And he said the Government should look at ways to use the Transport Innovation Fund that had been earmarked for Manchester’s road pricing scheme in a way that would benefit the whole country.
He said: “I suppose this is a good thing for Birmingham in the end. We were the first to say no, and now Manchester have come round.
“Frankly, if you’ve lost Birmingham and Manchester, you’ve lost the country. I think this is an opportunity to turn the heat up on the Department for Transport and say ‘you’ve been stringing us along, but now this is dead in the water, so let’s have a conversation.
“At the moment there’s not much leadership at all because all of the transport budgets are so national. We want a regional transport board. Transport is a great public policy orphan – it’s badly in need of a fix, not just the infrastructure, but also its governance. The regions need to be recognised and accounted for. At the moment we have to go cap in hand to the Government.”
Earlier this week, business lobby groups Birmingham Future and Birmingham Forward carried out a study which revealed the extent to which the business community was opposed to congestion charging in Birmingham. More than 65.8 of Birmingham Forward members who responded to the survey said they were against road pricing, compared with 78.6 per cent of Future members who replied no.
Richard Brennan, the chief executive of Birmingham Forward, said: “With various transport issues the subject of much debate in the city and beyond at the moment we thought it would be interesting to gauge the views of both Forward and Future members on some of the key talking points. It is not surprising that road charging is unpopular with both organisations.
"Clearly the decision of the Manchester ballot reflects that the appetite to charge to enter city centre’s whether for business or leisure is just not there. It may help reduce road congestion at key times and could lead to investment in public transport improvements but many see it as another attack on the motorist.
“Our survey also demonstrates though that there is a willingness to use public transport particularly trains if services continue to improve.”
Matt Taylor, chairman of Birmingham Future the organisation for young professionals, said: “As the survey demonstrates, transport remains an important issue for young professionals in Birmingham. With many of our members travelling up to five miles to get in to work, and some even further, access to good transport links is vital for commuting to and from the office.
“What was interesting from the results is that despite more than half of the Future members surveyed using the bus or train to get to work, there was very little support for the introduction of a road charging scheme in the city, as clearly there isn’t in Manchester.
"In fact, the number of people against it has increased by around ten per cent since 2007 when we polled our members on the same issue.”