Ensuring the West Midlands has the infrastructure in place to make the most of the opportunities of the coming decades was on the agenda as the government’s official advisers on infrastructure policy visited the region.
Maximising the benefits of HS2 through investment in local public transport, helping businesses expand their services and markets with 5G technologies, and ensuring that infrastructure helps reduce carbon emissions were all discussed during a series of meetings between the National Infrastructure Commission and Cllr Bob Sleigh, Deputy Mayor for the West Midlands and officials from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The Commissioners were keen to discuss how government policy, funding mechanisms and decision making processes can better serve the needs of city regions like Greater Birmingham, and support key goals including levelling up and reaching the net zero emissions target by 2050.
Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands, Cllr Bob Sleigh OBE, discussing West Midlands' infrastructure during a meeting with the NIC.
The Commission’s visit was part of a series of engagements with city regions across the country, to gather evidence in the run-up to the next National Infrastructure Assessment – a major five-yearly report with costed recommendations to government on long term infrastructure priorities.
The visit coincided with the publication of a new report by the Commission on urban public transport, which sets out the role of public transport schemes in tackling traffic congestion in large cities and how such investment can be future proofed against changing working and leisure habits following the Covid pandemic.
During the visit, Commissioners visited University station in Edgbaston to see how major refurbishment works are being managed alongside maintaining routine operation of the services for passengers at one of the city’s busiest stations.
Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce also hosted a special roundtable event where business discussed with leaders how transport and energy networks can evolve to support a greener economy which also supports skilled jobs in the region and beyond.
The Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands, Cllr Bob Sleigh OBE, said: “The National Infrastructure Commission plays an important role in government decision making and we were keen to help them understand the challenges and the opportunities the West Midlands faces. This is an opportunity to showcase the innovation our region is known for and to highlight our pioneering work around the future of mobility and battery industrialisation. It is also a chance to discuss how we can take this even further and ensure the region is at the forefront of national and international research and development of the technologies our future will depend on.”
Attending the fact-finding tour was also Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner at National Infrastructure Commission, who said: “The West Midlands is known around the world as a place where industry and innovation have flourished, and we want to help ensure that remains the case through long term planning and investment. As we face an array of challenges and opportunities in the second half of this century, our visit has given us invaluable insights to inform our future recommendations on government policy.”
The next National Infrastructure Assessment will be published in the second half of 2023. The Commission has already announced that it will focus on three strategic themes: achieving the legally binding net zero emissions target, protecting the environment and enhancing climate resilience, and levelling up economic prosperity and quality of life the UK. Ministers are required to respond formally to the Commission’s recommendations within a year.