New motorway planned to link M54 with M5
A controversial new 40-mile motorway is set to link the M54 to the West Midlands.
Midlands Connect is considering plans for the ‘Western Strategic Route’, which would connect Shropshire’s only motorway with the M5 at junction 4a.
The transport body’s new report, out today, says the route would offer ‘the biggest benefit’ for improving journey times and supporting economic growth. It says the route could reduce traffic on stretches of the M6 and M5 by one fifth, and could also connect up to 45,000 homes in garden villages.
But South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson says the route would “rip the heart out of the greenbelt”.
The exact path of the motorway has not yet been finalised, although it appears to mirror the Western Orbital scheme and the Wolverhampton Bypass, which were thrown out twice in the 1990s and 2000s over environmental and financial concerns.
Initial plans suggest it is set to pass near Codsall, Codsall Wood, Perton, Pattingham, Wombourne, Dudley, Stourbridge and Kidderminster.
The report details 10 recommendations to bust congestion on Midlands motorways, including measures to make the best use of the "underused" M6 Toll, new park and ride sites, and introducing ramp metering on the M5 junction 1 (West Bromwich) and junction 2 (Oldbury).
Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses, said: “This long term plan shows the Midlands needs a strategic solution for its road network, not a quick fix.
"There is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to fixing congestion; the recommendations outlined in this report are a bold statement of intent as to what is required to make the Midlands’ motorway network fit for purpose."
Jeremy Bloom, network planning director for Highways England, said: “We recognise that the network in the Midlands suffers from extensive congestion and agree that a vision for the future will help us to develop an investment strategy that solves the problems over the longer term.
"Clearly this won’t happen overnight but this report provides us with the foundation to plan improvements over the next two decades. We are committed to working closely with Midlands Connect to make this a reality.”
The plans have been taken forward for further consideration.
Industry ‘strangled’ by congested roads
Industry in the Midlands is being ‘strangled’ due to an insufficient road network, business bosses have claimed.
Corin Crane, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), said it was clear that in its current form the road network was letting businesses down.
“The Midlands is home to renowned manufacturers with world-class reputations,” he said.
“However, without appropriate transport and infrastructure investment, the goods they make cannot be moved around the UK.
“Our location in the heart of the country should give businesses an advantage and opportunities to thrive, not strangle them with an insufficient road network.”
He said that the BCCC wanted to see better usage of the M6 Toll, which has also been flagged up as a recommendation in the Midlands Connect report.
Julian Pottinger, director of Little Pot Travel, a haulage firm, said: “Congestion is a massive issue, both getting in to and out of the area. For haulage companies like mine that drives up costs through wasted fuel, time and resources.
“Improvements like smart motorway upgrades seem to be working, but more needs to be done to make the motorways run more smoothly in the future.”
Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect, said: “One third of all British road freight travels from, through or to the Midlands, so our region suffers more than most from congestion.
"That’s why one of Midlands Connect’s main priorities is to make sure investment in improved connectivity helps support businesses.”