Skip to content
Infrastructure blog

Midlands Connect: planning for a greener, fairer and stronger future

13 July 2023

Midlands Connect’s Richard Bradley shares the subnational transport body’s emerging programmes to decarbonise roads in the region.

Midlands Connect: planning for a greener, fairer and stronger future
Midlands Connect is helping to decarbonise the transport system. Image credit: Shutterstock

What is the role of a subnational transport body like Midlands Connect?

Well, we must deliver a strategic transport plan and continue to build the case for strategic rail and road investment.

We must also help provide one voice to the UK government for the Midlands.

But we’re now finding a new, high-value role to support local transport authorities in meeting urgent government priorities.

Key to this role is helping decarbonise the transport system and refresh local transport plans with quantifiable carbon reductions (QCR).

Now, as well as delivering major infrastructure business cases, like the Midlands Rail Hub, we’re supporting authorities in tackling local emissions.

We do this by providing final business cases and helping shape contracts that deliver across all geographies and local policies.

Decarbonising roads – electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure

We use estimates of carbon emissions to help us prioritise our support.

This gives us a clear reason to focus on road transport.

In the local electric vehicle infrastructure funding (LEVI) pilot, we helped form a successful Midlands consortium, or association, led by Lincolnshire and including Stoke-on-Trent, Herefordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland.

This was the only tier 1 local authority consortium and is expected to support around a 1:4 public to private financing.

We’re now centrally supporting two further consortiums using more than 50% of the whole Midlands £66m LEVI funding.

Working together to attract funding

At the time of writing this blog we have the largest consortium, an approach promoted by the government to find the optimal public-private partnership.

The consortiums will require contracts that cover large geographies and last 15 years or more.

But they’re expected to attract some 80% of private funding and ensure that EV public charge points are available for all.

Contracts for the first consortium will need to be ready for September 2024.

We’re trying to motivate suppliers for societal benefit as well as profit.

What we’re learning is how strong the region is when pushed to work together at pace.

Long-term approach to decarbonising road haulage

Decarbonising road haulage requires a longer-term collaboration across regions to understand the choice of mode and fuel type for moving heavier goods over long distances.

We’re taking a ‘telescopic view’ of Great Britain to understand these likely choices, modelling 2050 scenarios of annual tonnage movement by road, rail, sea and air.

We’re also taking a ‘microscopic view’ across regions to find areas with good access to energy, land and skills.

At the same time, we’re considering fuel availability, trade routes and vehicle fleets, and strategic fit and scalability.

When we combine these different views, we think we need a national network of refuelling, recharging and modal interchange hubs, with:

  • Super Hubs, for more long-haul and of national importance;
  • Strategic Hubs, for shorter-haul and important for connecting the region and its ports, whether air, sea or free; and
  • Local Hubs, which are the key distribution hubs adjacent to towns and cities, for example Amazon warehouse clusters.

Selecting priority locations

It will probably be of little surprise that the top-priority Midlands locations for these interlaced energy and transport activities are focused around the two Midlands airports.

As such we’re working with Midlands Net Zero Hub and Leicestershire LEP on the ‘East Midlands Energy Super Hub’ project, including the airport and freeport zone.

The Decarbonisation Policy Playbook

The Department for Transport has also asked us to support the local transport authorities in delivering QCRs as part of a 2024 local transport plan update.

For this we’re working with all seven regions to deliver the Decarbonisation Policy Playbook.

This will help authorities find the best policies that fit local geographies and communities, and then allow them to understand likely carbon reductions within their network.

All these three work programmes represent the initial phases of our vision-led pathways as we plan for a greener, fairer and stronger future.

They will support local, regional and national efforts to decarbonise the transport system and play a major part in decarbonising the UK economy.

*The ICE welcomes guests to share their views about infrastructure policy issues on the Infrastructure Blog. These views are the views of the individual.

If you're interested in writing for the Infrastructure Blog, please email [email protected]. The ICE reserves the right not to publish articles that have been submitted.

  • Richard Bradley, head of strategy at Midlands Connect