Midlands Connect has outlined the schemes it believes should be at the forefront of future construction or development as part of Highways England’s record £25bn Road Investment Strategy 2.
The transport body responsible for promoting the importance of transport in the region is calling for a “long-term corridor approach” to road spending that puts the economy first. It wants to remove boundaries of “constrained” five-year planning periods where possible.
Putting forward proposals, the sub-national transport organisation wants assurances from government and Highways England that the £25bn cash injection will provide benefits for the next five years and that nationally important projects in the region are not overlooked.
The document published today seeks clarity on already committed projects and that new schemes focus on supporting job creation, new homes and a resilient alternative to the motorway network.
Simon Statham, director of technical programmes at Midlands Connect, believes the 20 road schemes put forward will allow the Midlands will future-proof the network for the next generation.
“An investment in the Midlands benefits the nation,” Statham said. “A third of all road freight travels through, to or from the region, so it’s important that these ambitious yet deliverable schemes for the Midlands are prioritised alongside larger, more complex projects elsewhere, like the Oxford-Cambridge expressway. RIS2 can support our national freight networks, while also promoting increased economic productivity, housing development and jobs growth.”
Today’s document includes five clear, deliverable objectives from RIS2 to ensure short-term progress as well as long-term commitments that unleash the Midlands’ growth potential:
- Complete the construction of RIS1 (2015-2020) commitments
Midlands Connect has identified 10 regional projects earmarked to start construction during by March 2020 that must be completed by 2025. This includes supporting Telford & Wrekin Council to press for the earliest possible construction of the M54 to M6 Link Road; planned junction upgrades to the A38 near Derby, A52 near Nottingham and A46 near Coventry and the proposed widening of the A500 in Stoke-on-Trent and A5 in Warwickshire.
- Deliver schemes developed in RIS1 (2015-20) during RIS2 (2020-2025)
Midlands Connect is seeking a commitment to deliver four projects in RIS2 that were developed in RIS1, including the A50 Uttoxeter Project B: Eastern Junction, to complement improvements to the west of the town, supporting the rapid growth of major employers including JCB; and A46 Newark Northern Bypass, an essential upgrade to remove a major bottleneck and support housing and employment sites.
- Deliver new schemes in RIS2 (2020-2025)
Midlands Connect is keen to work closely with Highways England to prioritise five new schemes that could have an immediate positive impact on the regional and national economies, such as: A49 Hereford Bypass, A5 upgrades between M42 and M69 and M6 J15-16 Smart Motorway near Stoke-on-Trent (including J15 improvements).
- Plan for the future: support corridor approaches
Midlands Connect is seeking a formal role in the RIS decision making process that shapes a long-term delivery programme of shovel-ready schemes for the following decade, and moves away from constrained five-year planning periods. Midlands Connect is taking a long-term corridor approach for the first time with improvement plans for the A46, A5 and A50/A500 and believe it is fundamental to getting the greatest economic and social benefits from our transport system.
- Strengthen the relationship with Highways England
Building on Midlands Connect’s already close, collaborative relationship with Highways England, there is a proposal to work together to identify possible alternatives to RIS funding to accelerate the overall programme, including engaging resource from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund and Transforming Cities Fund.