A highly effective transport and infrastructure policy is so important to society and the economy that it will have to – and will – play a leading role within the ‘Great Recovery’.
As a regional think tank, we are particularly interested in research which helps to demonstrate what is working well across the region – and what isn’t – to help inform the decisions that policy makers and industry leaders make to enhance the region. We are also particularly interested in research which identifies areas of best practice outside of the region but which could be applicable to the West Midlands – particularly post COVID-19.
In one of his early election campaign announcements (before COVID-19 postponed the election for a year), Andy Street unveiled a £15 billion transport plan for the West Midlands which would feature eight new Metro lines, 380 new stops and 21 new rail stations. Is such a major investment in the region’s transport complimentary to the vision for driverless technology and Electric vehicle or is it an expensive contradiction? What role does cycling (and other methods of urban mobility) play in the economic regeneration; health of the nation and decarbonisation of the region? Has the experience of the lockdown made it even more important for stronger regional transport links as the desire for national mobility and globe-trotting diminishes and the sense of ‘community’ re-emerges?
Conversely, what about the aviation industry? In June 2019, Birmingham Airport announced major expansion plans costing £500 million to take its annual passenger numbers up from its 2019 figure of 13 million to 18 million by 2033. When the UK finds a way out of the pandemic, what will the future of aviation be across the region? What about Coventry Airport’s role and the broader Gateway project in boosting the regional economy?
We also want to conduct and commission research into High Speed 2, which goes beyond ‘should it be built or not’. This substantial investment, which will not open until at least 2028, has broad implications for the region in terms of employment; environment; usability; connectivity that we want to see the debate move on to how the region can maximise the opportunities presented by the project.