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Absence of an integrated transport strategy is damaging the economy

Commenting on a vote at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference to continue to rule out expansion at any airport, Colin Leighfield, Chair of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce Transport Policy Group, said:
"This vote shows the Liberal Democrats are out of touch with British business needs when it comes to aviation and airports.

"The next government, whatever its political colour, must commit to a real solution to aviation capacity starting with a commitment to regional airports, not only development in the South East.

“We want to see wider economic development outside the South East and we are frankly alarmed by the lack of joined up thinking by successive governments which at the same time favours major airport development that is as likely to move people and business away from Midlands and the North as it is to do the opposite. If a Heathrow expansion goes ahead there is little chance that our own regional airport, Birmingham, will have an opportunity to expand its role in addressing capacity needs. The reverse is likely to happen. On this basis we are concerned that some of benefits of HS2 will not be realised and we want assurances that the strategy of all political parties will not allow this to happen. An overall strategic perspective needs to be reflected in their thinking on airports.

"The Government claims that a major justification for building HS2 is to influence future economic development and growth in the regions and away from the South East.  Why do they not apply the same logic to regional airport development, which would have similar effects and achieve them more quickly?  This lack of connection in strategy is a major weakness and should be seriously addressed.

"The Black Country is supporting the proposals to build HS2. However, whereas for Birmingham, it is clear that building HS2 is highly beneficial in the context of new construction, increased employment opportunities and new education facilities, the adjacent regions see little direct benefit from this and are therefore wholly dependent on the regional regeneration that is predicted by Government. However, we fail to get responses from HS2 Ltd to our reasonable questions about the actual effects on local services and freight opportunities on the West Coast Main Line. The much heralded KPMG report is actually limited in the amount of information it provides and if the Black Country is going to be able to plan effectively, it needs better and more accurate information about the predictions for HS2 than have been forthcoming so far.

"We know that over 90% of freight travels by road and however successful we are in transferring suitable freight from road to rail, road will always remain dominant. This should be recognised and accepted. However, apart from the welcome introduction of managed motorways, we see little evidence of innovative thinking on roads. We expect every political party to think long and hard about investing in transport strategically and holistically. The destructive effects of short-term thinking are well known to us and the opportunity for UK manufacturers to greatly increase their contribution to GDP and exports is hampered as a result, at just the time when we need to remove the constraints and let them grow.”

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