Business leaders call for mass transit system for region

The largest business organisation for the West of England region has called on regional leaders to keep progressing work to help bring forward a proposal for an ambitious and green mass transit system for residents and businesses.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West said:  “Success has to be planned in advance, and we must now do the work that sets out the next stage of our region’s transport ambitions. This means carrying on with further studies to look at the business case for an integrated mass transit system. To ensure this business case is as strong as possible, we need to keep all the options proposed on the table.

“Transport has long been one of the highest priority issues for businesses in our region. In successive surveys of our members, transport is always identified as one of our key regional weaknesses and the issue that businesses want to see properly addressed and delivered on, with high ambition.

“It matters on a range of critical ingredients for our economic prosperity and the future plans of our businesses.  We currently have some of the worst congestion in the country, meaning too many people are stuck in traffic rather than contributing to make our region stronger. Business also needs certainty about the long term plans for our region if we are to attract the future jobs and investment that our region needs.

“Our weakness in transport is not only a drag on current and future economic growth, it is also a serious obstacle to delivering for our worse off citizens and on our region’s economic inequalities. A failure to build a full transport system in our city region has been felt hardest in our areas of deprivation for whom lack of transport infrastructure and provision cuts away the ability to access opportunities to work or grow a business.

“A failure to deliver our full ambitions on transport would also hurt our ambitions to deliver major carbon reductions, critical in the fight against climate change.  Our performance on car use, compared to more sustainable modes, is considerably worse than other better performing English cities. This is particularly pronounced in journeys where walking or cycling are less viable – journeys of over a couple of miles both into and around our town and city centres.

“We need much better solutions to travel by public transport on key route corridors and do so in the greenest and most convenient way possible.

“Our view is that we need a mass transit system. What it looks like at this stage is unclear, but if the region is to hope to meet its major challenges on improving transport, tackling congestion and reducing carbon emissions, it needs to do the work in planning for an ambitious integrated transport system.

“The next government will also be looking to Metro Combined Authorities for ambitious proposals to unlock growth and deal with the climate crisis. We have to do further work to be ready for these opportunities.

“The West of England Combined Authority offers, for the first time in decades, the ability to ambitiously plan and deliver our region’s transport needs.

“Although the funding of this will inevitably be in part opportunistic, taking advantage of these opportunities can only happen if the evidence and costings for different levels of ambition exist. If we do not have the evidence for these options, we will have impeded our ability to win future funding.

“That is why the business community strongly supports the investment now in transport studies that properly evidence and understand the options for future transport investment and we urge our local leaders to continue the important work to progress these.”

Business West is the business leadership organisation and Chamber of Commerce for the West of England area.