An ambitious set of transport proposals aimed at transforming the Midlands over the next 20 years could be huge for social mobility, it has been claimed.
On Monday, Midlands Connect launched its strategies for growth, a 20-year plan featuring a number of high profile improvements to the transport network.
As well as a series of upgrades to the region's motorways, proposals also feature plans for a Midlands railway hub, potentially adding an extra £649 million to the Midlands economy by 2037.
Headlines from the report include adding 24 more services to the passenger network every hour, as well as cutting travel times for some of the most popular routes.
And proponents of the plans have said that these improvements will help with the Midlands' social mobility problem.
A report last year by the Social Mobility Commission found that the region was the worst in the country for social progress for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But Maria Machancoses, the director of Midlands Connect, believes that investing in the transport network is one of the best ways of improving opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“You know as well as I do that young people, or people looking for new career opportunities to actually study or expand their knowledge, see transport as a massive barrier," she said.
"So we want to help create a network that isn’t just talking about using the train, but the tram next to the train.
"And we together, if we continue to invest in the transport network, then people feel completely comfortable and confident of jumping onto that network.
"Not just in their cars but on to the public transport network, to tap in to new job opportunities, or to expand their knowledge because they want to go to university or college.
"It gives them the opportunity to leave their comfort zone, and that’s what social mobility is all about. And that’s not just people, that could be the same with very small businesses too, where they don’t feel confident enough yet to explore new markets.
"So social mobility in a scheme like this is really important.”
In parliament last year the Transport Secretary made reference to the government's commitment to improving social mobility through transport, referencing an increase in spending over the past seven years.
And Matthew Hammond, chairman of the West Midlands Growth Company, believes this is vital if the Midlands is to fully address the issue.
"I think if you look at the generation that we are currently recruiting, fewer leavers, higher apprentices and graduates, typically late teens, early twenties.
"Do they want to own a car, buy a car? Not necessarily. They may want to use a car from time to time in the next five to ten years, but public transport is also vital.
"So whether that’s the metro through the city centre out to places like Wolverhampton, or the suburban railway line network across Birmingham, and then connected in of course with the wider region.
"The availability of relatively affordable, frequent, rail and other transport services is very, very important."