Conference hears how Midlands Connect can unlock growth and jobs

Improving road and rail links across the Midlands could unlock more than £1 billion of extra economic growth a year and create 300,000 new jobs, delegates at a transport conference have heard.

The Intermodal conference in Nottingham was told how the Midlands Connect project was developing a region-wide transport strategy to power the Midlands Engine, driving economic growth and jobs and ultimately a better quality of life for the people of central England.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council and member of the Midlands Connect board, said speeding up journey times across the region, and in particular between the east and west Midlands, could also yield local business savings of £460 million a year.

More than 200 senior decision-makers from the road, rail and air sectors are attending the two-day event, which closes Tuesday June 21 at the Nottingham Conference Centre.

Delegates have been looking at ways of developing efficient and integrated transport networks capable of tackling congestion and poor air quality caused by increasing urbanisation.

Cllr Lawrence said that with 11.5 million people, 15 cities, 27 universities, 23 science parks and three international airports, the Midlands offered unparalleled economic opportunities.

“Our region makes an annual contribution to the British economy of more than £222 billion a year and accounts for 16 per cent of all UK exports,” he said.

“But we also suffer significant transport challenges which can impact not just on our competitiveness but that of the wider UK economy.

“The strategic plan being developed by Midlands Connect aims to tackle those constraints and capitalise on HS2 by making sure we have the right infrastructure connections to get the maximum benefits possible from it.”

The conference heard how the Midlands Connect partnership included 28 local authorities and 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships from across the region, speaking with one voice to help secure the necessary investment in road, rail and freight improvements.

Cllr Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Business, Growth and Transport at Nottingham City Council, gave an overview at the conference of the work that’s underway in Nottingham to improve people’s transport choices, from new tramlines and bus services to smart ticketing and cycling improvements.

“Good transport infrastructure and services play a big part in encouraging growth, inward investment and providing access to jobs,” he said.

“It’s important within our cities but also between them and we’re keen to work with partners across the region to make sure we’re as well connected as we can be so that the whole of the Midlands can reach its full potential.”

The strategic plan being developed by Midlands Connect is due to be published in March next year and will serve as the transport component powering the Midlands Engine, setting out credible, long-term investment priorities to help unlock growth and jobs.

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