The Midlands Engine is here, at the heart of the UK transport network

The Midlands Engine is here, at the heart of the UK transport network

by Midlands Engine Newsroom

Navigating the Midlands is like going on a bear hunt. It’s something you can’t go around, you can’t go over, you can’t go under – you must go through!

We’re here, at the heart of the UK’s transport network. Our enviable location means the Midlands’ transport infrastructure serves many important purposes. Our roads and railways connect us to our own workplaces and communities, act as important regional, national and international trade routes, and allow people and business to access international ports and airports. The future economic prosperity of the region and the country relies upon ensuring this vital infrastructure is fit for purpose.

Midlands Connect exists to research, develop and recommend transformational transport projects which will future-proof our regional, national and international connectivity. By bringing businesses closer to their suppliers and markets, widening access to jobs, and supporting inward investment, our programme can deliver positive social outcomes as well as catalysing economic growth. The Government’s Industrial Strategy aims to boost the productivity and earning power of our population. Improving our transport network is central to achieving this goal.

What do we do?

Midlands Connect is the Sub-national Transport Body for the Midlands. Our partnership provides a single, credible voice in Westminster, on Midlands infrastructure priorities. Our team’s technical experts work alongside their peers from Local Enterprise Partnerships, Councils and Chambers of Commerce to create strategic development proposals spanning road, rail and technological innovation. Every single recommendation Midlands Connect makes is evidence-led, ensuring that all our schemes can deliver a real-world return on investment. Midlands Connect only succeeds when we turn our evidence into Midlands transport investment.

The business case

Our region is home to world-leading industrial clusters, spanning advanced manufacturing, automotive, agri-tech and logistics. For many of our businesses, a reliable transport network is essential to their profitability, whether it be in ensuring the timely delivery of parts or finished products connecting them to customers, or ensuring they have access to a wide enough pool of skilled employees.

Similarly, the Midlands’ export economy is internationally significant; our businesses exported £54 billion worth of goods in 2017. To put this into perspective, if our region was a country we would be the twelfth biggest exporter in Europe, ahead of Portugal, Hungary and Denmark. To continue to keep growing our export market, our businesses need more reliable access to international gateways via road and rail to export their wares by air and sea.

The success of the Midlands has led to population increases and growing businesses, which is putting strain on our congested road and rail networks, many of which are full to capacity and no longer fit for purpose. This is where Midlands Connect comes in. Our road improvement schemes will improve journey time reliability, driving up productivity and connecting people to jobs, while our rail projects will open up destinations to a new generation of commuters.

Crucially though, the benefits of transport investment run much wider than faster journeys. Our projects will act as a catalyst for wider regeneration and development, supporting new housing and inward investment from abroad. By bringing together partners from across the Midlands Engine, we can explore complex, region-wide schemes to create an even more comprehensive and compelling case for investment.

Our success is the nation’s success

When communicating with Government, we must continue to make one thing clear – the Midlands’ success is the nation’s success. A third of all road freight travels through, to, or from the Midlands, while four the UK’s five main freight lines run through our region. Investment in the Midlands is an investment in UK plc. We must continue to fight for a better transport deal for our region to power the economy, both in the Midlands and beyond. As the way that we work, live and communicate changes, we’re also examining how new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and 5G can play their part in future-proofing our transport network. It’s time the Midlands had the infrastructure it needs and deserves to ensure we all reach our full potential. We want people to value going through us, not bemoan being unable to go around, over or under us.

By Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect