Improving transport links to speed up journey times across the Midlands could boost the regional economy by more than £1 billion a year, create 300,000 additional jobs and save businesses nearly £500 million.
The figures were revealed today (Thursday October 22) at the launch of the newly-strengthened Midlands Connect Partnership.
The Partnership has been charged with developing a Midlands-wide transport strategy to drive the regional economy and power the Government’s ambition to build a Midlands Engine for Growth.
The strategy, to be developed jointly by the Midlands Connect Partnership and the Department for Transport, will set out credible long-term transport investment priorities to help unlock growth and jobs.
Today’s launch at The Roundhouse in Derby follows the Government’s decision to work with the Partnership and put £5 million towards the research and development of the strategy – Midlands Connect: Delivering a Transport Strategy for the Midlands.
It also follows the announcement last week of proposed legislation that would open the door to the Midlands Connect Partnership to seek formal powers over strategic transport schemes and investment.
The Partnership, which includes more than 40 public and private organisations, has been pressing for better road, rail and freight links.
It believes better connectivity is vital for the Midlands to fulfil its growth potential and maximise the significant economic benefits offered by the forthcoming HS2 high speed rail line.
Signatories to the strategy include Transport Under-Secretary of State Robert Goodwill MP, HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins, Midlands Connect co-chairs Cllr Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham City Council, and Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, Peter Richardson, chairman of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership (representing Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire), David Frost, chair of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, Cllr Anne Western, leader of Derbyshire County Council and Cllr Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council.
Mr Goodwill said: “In addition to the massive investment the Government is making in our transport infrastructure, we want to help regions across the country to make their voices heard on how their transport networks are run.
“We know that good transport doesn’t just help people get around, it helps them get on and these are key components of our long term economic plan to boost jobs and growth.
“I congratulate the Midlands Connect Partnership on getting the Midlands Engine for Growth in motion and starting work on this vital strategy.
“This is a fantastic opportunity and I look forward to us working together on it.”
Today’s event heard how the Midlands, with 10 million people, 14 cities, 20 universities and an annual contribution to the British economy of more than £178 billion a year, offered unparalleled economic opportunities.
But the region also suffers significant transport challenges which impact on its competitiveness and that of the wider UK economy.
The strategic plan being developed will aim to tackle those transport constraints in order to unlock growth opportunities and capitalise on HS2.
Sir David said: “HS2 has the potential to be more than a new railway. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs, boost skills and employment and improve transport connectivity across the country.
“Through Midlands Connect local, civic and business leaders are working strategically to get the whole region HS2 ready.
“The programme has received additional support today from Government investment to develop a vision and strategy for transforming transport connectivity across the region, in order to drive economic growth.”
Sir Albert added: “The Midlands has real economic strengths in engineering, manufacturing, construction and research all of which are crucial to the success of UK plc.
“But the evidence demonstrates that our economy is also constrained by poor transport links, particularly for east-west movements.
“That’s why today marks the start of an intensive 18-month process to develop a robust transport strategy identifying the big investments needed to unlock the region’s full potential.”
Research already carried out by Midlands Connect has shown that cutting journey times on key Midland routes by 20 per cent over the next 20 years could yield local business savings of £460 million a year, increase annual economic activity in the region by £1.1 billion, create 306,000 additional jobs and benefit the labour market by £33 million a year.
Research has also shown that the Midlands:
- Is worth £178 billion a year to UK plc
- Has a third of all UK manufacturing jobs
- Exports 16% of all UK exports worth £50 billion
- Has 20 universities with links to emerging sectors
- Will see its population grow by 10% over the next 20 years
- Is within four hours travel time of 90 per cent of UK businesses
- Has the UK’s biggest ‘pure’ freight airport at East Midlands
- Has Birmingham Airport one of just seven in the UK to serve more than 10 million passengers a year
Cllr Collins added: “The launch of the Midlands Connect partnership representing 40 local transport authorities and local enterprise partnerships will allow us to speak with one loud and clear regional voice to Government – the Midlands is and will be a key driver in helping to rebalance the national economy.
“We can deliver key regional wide transport infrastructure priorities to unlock the potential success of the Midlands economy, and contribute significantly to the national economy.”
Mr Frost said: “As a businessman I’m delighted to see the launch of the major development phase of Midlands Connect. The work that we are starting today will form a cornerstone in ensuring that businesses across the Midlands can improve their productivity and continue to contribute to the success of UK Plc.”
Mr Richardson added: “The development of Midlands Connect is crucially important in driving forward our economic growth.
“The Midlands must be supported in creating the infrastructure to create good north-south and east-west links, and the further transport routes to enable it to trade internationally.
“We’re determined to use private and public sector and central and local government support to create those links to benefit all Midlands’ communities.
“It’s only by developing this kind of framework that the Midlands Engine will be able to drive forward its own and the UK’s economy in the future.”
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “Staffordshire has a proven track record of working with partners delivering key infrastructure projects to support economic growth, deliver new jobs and improve connectivity between the north and south and particularly between the west to east right here in the Midlands.
“Better road and rail journeys are at the heart of supporting a thriving local, regional and national economy and the investment in Midlands Connect demonstrates further Government’s confidence in all partners to prioritise and deliver what is best for our businesses, best for our residents and best for our local economies”
Cllr Martin Hill OBE, leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said:”There is a compelling case for investing in the transport infrastructure in the Midlands and I am pleased that the Government sees the potential for delivering significant job creation and economic growth, backed by the announcement of £5m of support for the further development of Midlands Connect proposals.”