Midland Connect: Developing infrastructure for Midlands growth

22nd October 2015, Derby:  Representatives from 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), 26 transport authorities and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Midlands, gathered today at the Derby Roundhouse, on the site of the former British Rail and Midland Railway engineering works, for the launch of Midlands Connect – an initiative to develop connectivity across the Midlands to fuel economic growth.

Transport Minister Robert Goodwill attended the launch of the newly strengthened Midlands Connect Partnership
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill attended the launch of the newly strengthened Midlands Connect Partnership

Following a welcome by Councillor Mark Rawson, Deputy Leader of Derbyshire City Council, Robert Goodwill, Under Secretary of State for Transport, gave the keynote speech launching the Midlands Connect initiative which forms part of the wider long term plan to make the Midlands the UK’s ‘Engine for Growth,’.

The keynote speech was followed by Sir David Higgins, Non-executive Chair of HS2 Ltd, who spoke about Midlands Connect and the unprecedented opportunities HS2 would bring to the region.

In his address, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said:

"In addition to the massive investment the government is making in our transport infrastructure, we want to help regions across the country to make their voices heard on how their transport networks are run. We know that good transport doesn't just help people get around, it helps them get on and these are key components of our long term economic plan to boost jobs and growth.

"I congratulate the Midlands Connect Partnership on getting the Midlands Engine for growth in motion and starting work on this vital strategy. This is a fantastic opportunity and I look forward to us working together on it."

Midlands Connect is a partnership of 11 LEPs and 26 transport authorities, representing the interests of a population of 11 million and 14 cities from across the Midlands. These bodies have come together to develop a strategic transport strategy that will deliver economic growth by: capitalising on HS2 opportunities, addressing east-west Midlands connections, and considering connectivity via the region's airports and ports.

The Government announced in October, that under the devolution agenda, transport bodies like Midlands Connect could be given formal responsibility for transport funding. This was followed up in this year's Budget with an announcement by the Chancellor of £5 million of investment for Midlands Connect for strategy and vision development.

Molly McKenzie, ICE East & West Midlands Regional Director adds, "ICE East Midlands is already involved in developing Local Infrastructure Pipelines to achieve improved and joined up procurement, whole life planning across the networks and assets, and the development and retention of supply chain skills for unlocking the Midland's potential for growth."

She then added that ICE East Midlands was holding a follow-up open breakfast event on 'Devolution of Infrastructure' on Tuesday 27th at the Radisson Blu, East Midlands Airport with David Ralph, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership Chief Executive and Andy Warrington, Associate Director Transportation, Atkins & ICE East Midlands Committee Chair 2014/15.

ICE has long favoured the devolution of power to local institutional structures with institutional and funding changes being underpinned through the implementation of three specific transport policy recommendations:

  • Government to set an overarching national transport strategy to provide guidance to city regions and ensure national priorities are delivered.
  • Comprehensive city region transport strategies, covering all aspects of public and private transport and linked to wider policy priorities.
  • Much greater city region influence over national road and rail networks, as well as moving more control over local roads from small boroughs to the city region level.

With 90% of the UK's population expected to be living in cities by 2030, ICE believes we should find the most effective ways of devolving transport governance now. Devolution must not become a 'one-size fits all' model. It must be guided by the needs and capacity of each region.

In spring 2016, ICE will publish its next flagship policy report, 'State of the Nation: Devolution', focussing on the implementation of the Government's devolution agenda. It will look at the challenges and opportunities of devolving infrastructure policy across the UK, as well as initiatives including the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine for Growth. In doing so, the report will address issues such as governance, institutional frameworks, investment, funding and engineering capacity.