49 million requested from government to deliver two transformational Black Country road schemes

28 Aug 2019

Published in: Black Country Chamber of Commerce News

49 million requested from government to deliver two transformational Black Country road schemes

49 million requested from government to deliver two transformational Black Country road schemes

Midlands Connect submits priority “Major Road Network” schemes as part of £3.5 billion government fund 

Improvements to A4123 Birchley Island in Sandwell and A454 Black Country Route in Wolverhampton included in “Major Road Network” priority list for government funding;

Shortlisted schemes chosen specifically to cut congestion, create jobs and homes, and encourage more walking and cycling; • Both schemes could be completed by 2024 if funding is secured;

Message to government: “fund these schemes in full”.

Two transformational road schemes in the Black Country have been included in a priority list for government funding by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect, with a funding request for £49 million to deliver them by 2025.

Improvements to the A4123 Birchley Island in Sandwell and A454 Black Country Route in Wolverhampton are amongst 11 Midlands road schemes submitted to the Department for Transport, as part of a £3.5 billion fund available from 2020-2025.

Midlands Connect was empowered by the Department for Transport (DfT) to work with the 22 councils in its partnership to identify priority schemes to improve local roads in the region.

The fund covers upgrades to the Major Road Network (MRN), a new category of the busiest and most economically important local authority ‘A’ roads, and “Large Local Majors” (LLM) schemes, which focus on bigger upgrades to local roads.

The MRN was established by the government to focus on funding schemes that will reduce congestion, support housing and employment growth, encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport, and provide better links to motorways and major trunk roads.

Following detailed consultation and a rigorous assessment, Midlands Connect has submitted 11 schemes to the DfT for consideration, in the West and East Midlands.

MRN schemes must include a government funding request of £20-50 million each, and LLM schemes more than £50 million, with a local contribution of at least 15%.

Two Black Country schemes are included in the submission:

• A4123 Birchley Island, Sandwell: a scheme to create a “hamburger” style junction with a single lane in both directions through the existing roundabout, and widening of the roundabout at all approaches. Birchley Island is extremely busy, with up to 70 vehicles queuing at any one time.

The scheme will ease congestion for all road users, including 26 bus services every hour that use the A4023 and A4123.

The scheme also makes it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to use the roundabout, and improves access to the M5.

• A454 between Wolverhampton and East Park Gateway: a scheme to convert a section of Walsall Street and Lower Walsall Street to one-way westbound, and carriageway widening and a new junction at Hickman Avenue.

The scheme is an important component of the Canalside Quarter development. Road improvements will also support the East Park Gateway, 125 hectares of employment and housing land.

Midlands Connect has asked the government to fund £49 million of the £64 million total cost of the two schemes (£29 million for Birchley Island and £35 million for the A454).

The remainder will be funded locally from a mixture of private and public sector sources. The total Midlands-wide funding request to the government is £596 million, with an additional £143 million to be funded locally.

If successful, local authorities would deliver the physical infrastructure required. Simon Statham, Midlands Connect’s head of technical programmes, said: “A reliable transport network is essential to the success of the Black Country and wider Midlands region.

Both of these schemes include compelling evidence that improvements will help create new jobs and homes, ease congestion for road users and encourage more walking, cycling and use of public transport.

By reducing these consistently congested routes, we can also reduce harmful emissions caused by idling cars and lorries.

“We are confident that we have provided all of the evidence the government needs to fund these schemes in full, and we expect to be celebrating a £600 million investment in to the region to help our local authority partners get on and deliver this transformational programme of upgrades.”

Councillor Bob Lloyd, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economic Growth at Sandwell Council, said: “Birchley Island is one of our busiest junctions in Sandwell and this money from the government would allow us to make much-needed improvements.

“Millions of road users from all over the region will benefit from making the island into a “hamburger” style junction. These improvements will enable traffic to flow more freely, meaning less harmful emissions from vehicles queuing in traffic.

“Better and quicker access to and from the motorway network will not only benefit our residents but also the many businesses in Sandwell and the wider Black Country who use this junction to export goods all over the world.”

Councillor Steve Evans, Cabinet Member for City Environment at City of Wolverhampton Council said: “As a council, we understand the need for road improvements in the area not only to reduce delays and improve traffic flow, but to make way for further improvements we have planned for our city and wider Black Country.

If successful, the funding will not only help deliver our improvements to the road network, but will also benefit residents, support the city’s wider regeneration scheme and hopefully attract more visitors to Wolverhampton.”

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses in the Black Country are rightly renowned for exporting world class products around the globe, so at a time of increased uncertainty, we must focus on the areas that we are in control of – including improving infrastructure and easing congestion.

Both Birchley Island and the A454 provide crucial, strategic links with key routes around the Black Country, but are also frustratingly renowned pinch points. Therefore, work that makes all movement in these areas easier, has the support of the Black Country Chamber.”

Midlands Connect is encouraging the government to allocate funding for shortlisted schemes as soon as possible to ensure their smooth delivery.

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