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Transport Innovation Fund

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Background

For the past three years, the West Midlands has been working through the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) process to look at the level of road congestion in the region, public transport priorities, and funding options for transport improvements. During that time, we have produced three reports detailing our findings from the surveying and technical work we have conducted.

The first report, Choices and Challenges for the Future was published in September 2006. This outlined the congestion issues facing the Metropolitan Area and explored a number of options for tackling congestion including forms of road pricing. The second report, Towards an Integrated Transport Strategy was published in July 2007 and highlighted the investment measures that are needed by the Metropolitan Area to address the Region’s growth agenda and also tackle congestion.

The final report in the TIF process, ‘Tackling Congestion, Delivering Growth’, (see downloads below) was published in March 2008.

The congestion problem

Congestion is widely accepted as a growing problem across the region. Parts of the road network operate close to capacity, which means that small increases in traffic volumes and individual incidents can result in substantially increased delays, with even minor incidents causing tailbacks. In addition, large volumes of traffic from outside the region travel on the West Midlands networks due to its central position in the country, with the region’s motorways seeing high flows of traffic throughout the day. Tailbacks and standing queues on these motorways then lead to traffic diverting, flooding on to local roads which can then also quickly reach capacity.

Work undertaken for the Local Transport Plan, which we submitted to the Government in March 2006, predicted that traffic levels could rise by 15% between 2001 and 2011. The most recent study shows that, without significant investment, journey times on key routes (or corridors) are predicted to increase over the next 10 years. For example, a journey from Coventry to Birmingham will increase from an average of 45 minutes today to 56 minutes in 2017. Similarly, a journey from Birmingham International Airport into central Birmingham would increase from 31 minutes to 42 minutes and from Sutton Coldfield to Birmingham from 31 minutes to 43 minutes.

The West Midlands and TIF

Doing nothing to tackle congestion is not an option if we are to remain competitive, see growth in jobs and housing, and sustain our quality of life.

In July 2005, the Government announced details of the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), offering substantial, long-term investment in return for radical measures to tackle congestion. The West Midlands was successful in its bid for pump priming funds from the Government’s Transport Innovation Fund in October 2005. This required a feasibility study to be undertaken, in accordance with DfT guidance, of measures to tackle congestion including road pricing, together with a TIF funded investment package.

Since July 2007 a final phase of work has been undertaken to further develop understanding of congestion in the West Midlands and to assess whether road pricing, coupled with a transport investment strategy, provides the most effective, sustainable and supportable transport solution to meet the future growth and regeneration aspirations of the West Midlands.

The study assesses the impact of a range of road pricing and complementary transport investments using sophisticated traffic/land use modelling taking account of a wide range of factors including the predicted growth of the region up to 2021. Ultimately, it was found that the evidence in the latest report does not back the case for road pricing across the city region in the short term, and therefore the West Midlands will not be making a full TIF bid in 2008.

The three studies have gone a long way in identifying the extent of congestion, the extent of transport investment needed and the practicalities of road pricing. In addition, they provide a strong foundation as well as pointing a way forward for the region in terms of understanding the transport infrastructure requirements to support the region’s growth, housing and regeneration agenda over the next decade.

Read on for further information on the West Midlands TIF work and study findings.