Good transport links will play a vital part in the economic strategy aiming to bring thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment to the region, a fringe event at this year’s Labour Party conference heard.
Sir John Peace at the Labour Party conference
‘Powering the Midlands Engine’ was organised by Midlands Connect and heard speakers explain the importance of connectivity.
A packed event was told that putting the right infrastructure in place would be key in positioning the region as a major UK and European gateway which would unlock its true potential and support growth across every sector.
Sir John Peace, the chairman of Midlands Connect, said the importance of good transport links could not be overstated, particularly following Britain’s vote to quit the European Union.
“As the nation’s manufacturing heartland and a dynamic exporter, the Midlands needs fast and reliable transport to connect people to places, manufacturers and markets, and in doing so generate a more prosperous UK,” he said.
“This will ensure that Britain succeeds in a new world with Brexit.”
Sir John said the region needed to take full advantage of the Midlands being at the crossroads of the country and to be ready for HS2.
“To do so we need to plan well for the future, that’s why we need the support of Government to continue the work of Midlands Connect,” he added.
“It will deliver an immense return on investment, building infrastructure that will connect businesses and people across the Midlands and the UK.”
Also speaking at the event was Richard Burden MP (Birmingham Northfield), who outlined the importance of connectivity at a national level, Andy Cliffe, chief executive of East Midlands Airport who spoke about the importance of aviation to the Midlands, Andrew Cleaves, the chair of the Midlands Connect steering group and Maria Machancoses, programme director of the Midlands Connect Project Team.
The event was sponsored by East Midlands Airport and chaired by Cllr John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council and who also spoke.
The Midlands Engine region is home to more than 11.5 million people and 25 universities with almost 500,000 students, whilst generating a £222bn annual contribution to the UK economy.
The Midlands Engine for Growth is a collaboration of bodies such as local enterprise partnerships working together to improve the economy of the Midlands and the UK by up to £34 billion by 2030, as well as supporting the creation of up to 300,000 jobs.
It aims to do this by focusing on five key themes – skills, innovation, transport, providing finance for business and promoting the region – and is part of the government’s wider plans to support jobs and growth in the UK.
Midlands Connect is a £5 million collaboration with central government that brings together 28 local authorities and 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships from across the Midlands.
Working with the Department for Transport it is developing a transport strategy to identify major infrastructure projects to improve connectivity within the region, driving economic growth and powering the Midlands Engine.
This includes making sure transport links in place so that the region can fully capitalise on the arrival of the HS2 high speed rail line in the late 2020s.
The strategy is due to be published in March 2017.