The man heading up transport policy for Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership has identified three key areas to get things moving in the West Midlands.
Andrew Cleaves, the transport lead for the LEP, said Birmingham Airport was a major concern, along with improving key junctions of the M42 and M6.
Mr Cleaves, who has been managing director of National Express’ coach business for two years, said it was important that local authorities and LEPs work together more closely to deliver Birmingham’s transport priorities.
He said: “Birmingham Airport is critical. It’s not just the airport. It is important the rail links, the M42 junction 6 improvements are made, junction 6 of the M6. It’s the need and pulling those areas together.
“It’s important we have an integrated service at the airport.
“HS2 is fantastic for the area. We should be welcoming it more and more, it should provide jobs in Birmingham city centre. It is important that we gather those together.”
Mr Cleaves joined National Express from Tube Lines, a privatised part of the London Underground, where he worked for 12 years to create a management company for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines.
He said it was important that LEPs, which were brought in to replace the axed regional development agencies, work with local authorities more closely.
“That is the way we will attract the funding,” he said. “I’ve been working with the authorities on those areas.
“There’s lots to do and I think we can get more investment into the region, but we need to get a clear picture of what’s needed in the area that we can give the Government and Department for Transport.
“Under Sir Albert Bore’s and Andy Street’s leadership I think there’s more to do, we can then make investment in the second city and the wider area.”
On First Group’s win of the West Coast main line contract from Virgin Rail, Mr Cleaves said: “I hope they can deliver the improvements in service and competitivity that they promise. Some of the targets seem very high and I hope they can achieve them.”
Mr Cleaves’ employer, National Express (NX), claims to be Birmingham’s biggest private sector employer with 5,500 members of staff, including the company’s call centre in Metropolitan House on the Hagley Road, employing 150 staff, so the voice of NX speaks with a Brummie twang.
The firm’s European coach business, Eurolines, has seen a surge in passengers between the UK and Paris in the recession with ticket sales up 15 per cent year on year.
“Part of my job is to get rid of the stereotype about coach travel,” he said. “Birmingham coach station does a lot to do away with that stereotype.
“We are seeing a steady growth in passengers. This year the Government removed the over-60s concession. We’ve seen 40 per cent fewer over-60s travellers. We’ve introduced our own concession that gives one-third off, the previous Government scheme was 50 per cent. That has been a big challenge for us.”
Three million passengers pass through Digbeth coach station every year, he said, with two million staying in Birmingham and one million using it as an interchange.