The Midlands has taken a major step towards establishing its own version of Transport for London to drive job-creating investment in road, rail and public transport.
Midlands Connect, a joint initiative between transport authorities covering the West and East Midlands, has welcomed new devolution legislation which allows new sub-national transport authorities to be set up.
The group, which includes councils, local enterprise partnerships and transport authorities alongside agencies like Network Rail and Highways England, was launched to develop stronger transport links between Birmingham and Nottingham and Derby.
Most transport investment in Midlands the region has been focused on north-to-south routes rather than east-west.
It is in the process of identifying the road, rail and other transport improvements needed to unlock growth and jobs and maximise the benefits of the forthcoming HS2 high speed rail line.
The strategy is also needed because constraints on the region's existing road and rail networks are making Midland businesses less competitive.
Research has shown that speeding journey times up across the Midlands by 20 per cent can boost the region's economy by more than £1 billion a year, create an additional 300,000 jobs and save businesses nearly £500 million a year.
Midlands Connect hopes it can be a key part of the Government's plan to develop the so-called 'Midlands Engine for Growth'.
Board member Coun Anne Western, who is also leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: "The passing of this legislation gives the Midlands an opportunity to have greater control and influence over investment and should be warmly welcomed.
"Our existing Midlands Connect partnership is already a strong one and is making great progress in drawing up the transport strategy needed to release untapped growth across our region.
"Having a sub-national transport body could bring the relevant parties together on a formal footing to develop that strategy, making it even more co-ordinated and effective."
Coun Western said Midlands Connect was now keen to sit down with the Government to explore the options opened up by the new legislation.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said the new Devolution and Cities Act is a step forward for the group.
He said: "The potential to give Midlands Connect statutory status will ensure it has impact, influence and the certainty to plan and drive forward its transport strategy, which is a vital part of the Midlands Engine for Growth."