Transport spending vital to support growth says Black Country chief

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce

VITAL infrastructure investment is urgently needed in the Black Country if the area is to make a contribution to the wider region’s economic productivity.

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce said concerns over Network Rail funding appeared to have led to a major re-assessment of rail project costings and the effectiveness of project implementation and timings.

It said this appeared to be leading to a re-evaluation of programme plan projects, which was hindering Transport for West Midlands’ (TfWM) ability to tackle a range of rail bottlenecks and lack of connectivity within and between the Black Country and the national economy.

Changes in the administration of Network Rail and acute funding shortages suggest that projects planned for the 2015-20 plan period have been either cancelled or deferred to the 2020-25 plan period, it added.

It is concerned the proposals in the 2020-25 period, when the bulk of TfWM projects appear to be provided for, may now be expected to be shunted to 2025-30, if not later.

With HS2 commencing next year, such delays could result in major shortfalls and voids in Black Country and West Midlands links to the HS2 stations via light rail and the Metro, significantly reducing the local and regional economic impact of HS2.

Corin Crane, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said that given the West Midlands’ transport infrastructure was operating at near capacity then the government needed to take urgent action to resolve the issues in Network Rail and reassure the region that it remained committed to effectively rebalancing the economy.

“The need for major investment in local infrastructure has been identified as a key cause for concern for businesses across all our key sectors,” he said.

“Given the location of the Midlands, our ability to move people and goods quickly and efficiently has an impact not only on the local economy, but on national productivity. As a chamber, we will be working closely with businesses and our partners across the region to formulate a cohesive transport strategy in 2017 and to optimise the growth potential of the Black Country economy.”