The West Midlands has been urged to show leadership over road pricing after a report exposed the damaging effects of traffic congestion on the region.
Commuters in the West Midlands take longer to travel to work than those in competing regions such as Merseyside or Newcastle, according to the Department for Transport. And roads here are more congested than any part of the country except London.
Delays faced by employees are part of the reason congestion costs West Midlands business and industry #2.2 billion each year.
The report was published as West Midland councils presented the Department of Transport with proposals for a #26.6 million traffic management scheme.
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce demanded the Government make good on promises to invest in public transport in the region.
But local authorities were also under pressure to come out in favour of road pricing scheme which could reduce congestion on the roads.
Local MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said: "We need the councils to start showing some leadership. There has been a failure to make any progress on road pricing.
"We seem to be losing out on that, because there has been no leadership out there."
West Midlands authorities needed to "knuckle down" and make a decision on road-pricing, she said. "They need to express a preference as to which option they support."
A report published in September by the region's local authorities suggested charging motorists #4 a day to travel into central Birmingham.
The region chosen to pilot road charging is expected to receive hundreds of millions of pounds from the Government to invest in public transport.
But local authorities are merely consulting on the proposals and have not yet decided whether to pursue them or not.
The Department for Transport has published regional transport statistics for 2006. It showed that employees in the West Midlands take 26 minutes to travel to work, one of the longest journey times in the UK.
In Merseyside the average time is 23 minutes, however Greater Manchester, which has also drawn up plans for road pricing, has an even worse congestion problem than the West Midlands, and the average journey to work time is 27 minutes.
London, which introduced congestion charges in 2003, still has the worst congestion of all. The average journey to work time in central London is 56 minutes.
The level of traffic in the West Midlands conurbation is 6,000 cars per kilometre per day. This is higher than any part of the country, except for London.
John Lamb, of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "This new report confirms that business in the West Midlands knows it is paying the price of congestion.
"It underlines that public transport needs to be upgraded. The rush hour seems to begin earlier and earlier in Birmingham. Road pricing would have an impact on travel times, but we are saying the case that it would improve economic competitiveness needs to be proven."
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