The Conservative shadow transport secretary was in Solihull last night to set out ambitious plans for a new high speed rail line linking Birmingham with London, the North and the Continent.

She made it clear that the recession would not jeopardise the proposals, which would indeed bring enormous benefits to the West Midlands economy.

There is now something of a consensus about the need for high speed rail, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats also promising high speed lines, although the proposals from the different parties are not identical.

But another ambitious transport scheme, published by Centro, the passenger transport authority, highlights the continuing importance of local services.

Plans to make it easier to get the train from Walsall or Moseley to Birmingham city centre don’t quite have the glamour of a proposed link to Paris, but they are just as important.

The region urgently needs better transport links, which will benefit everyone from shoppers to employers.

Congestion on the roads is not only unpleasant for motorists, but damages the region’s economy as staff turn up for work late, stressed or both.

But the problem will only worsen unless drivers are given an alternative.

Public transport is not a realistic option when services are poor, or non-existent. So plans for a dramatic improvement in local rail services are exactly what the region needs.

Indeed, there was a time when debate centred around ways of encouraging drivers to get out of their cars and try other forms of transport instead.

It has become clear that this is not the problem. If anything, rail operators have been forced to keep customers away, because there is a limit to how many passengers they can cope with.

Trains may run close to empty during off-peak periods, but during the rush hour the problem is more likely to be overcrowding than lack of demand.

This suggests that, as well as improving rail services, more radical solutions may be needed.

Flexible working hours and remote working – where staff can be based at home – have become increasingly viable as broadband internet connections have become commonplace.

The ideas are not suitable for every workplace, and businesses are often wary about exploring them even where they could work, for understandable reasons.

But while bodies such as Centro and Network Rail may be responsible for our transport systems, employers also need to consider what they can do to help themselves and their staff by reducing congestion.