The Core Strategy sets out our vision for travel. It sets out the need to develop the West Midlands highway network in a way that supports active travel, public transport and ultimately delivering behaviour change.
To deliver our vision for travel we will need to use our infrastructure differently and deliver targeted road space re-allocation to support active travel and public transport. This will include creating multi-modal corridors and low traffic neighbourhoods to reduce the dominance of the car in residential areas.
This will be critical to support us creating 15 minute neighbourhoods and a 45 minute region. Many of the biggest challenges will be on the KRN and we will work with our local authorities to create a framework to help us make the right decisions on its development and management and to monitor its performance and contribution towards the LTP’s objectives.
The purpose of this Big Move is to set out the West Midland’s approach to making our streets easier for everyone to get around and support behaviour change by putting people first as we shape and manage our transport network.
It sets out how the West Midlands will plan, manage and maintain the transport network to support the vision for travel and identifies the key issues and challenges which need to be understood and addressed in a way that work for the different places and people of the region.
A network that adopts a shared approach to safer streets, one that responds to the needs and wants of existing and new users, and provides short- and long-term benefits to the users.
Our road networks are congested and we have challenges with keeping them well maintained. We have with high levels of air and noise pollution. Journeys by car, bus and goods vehicle are often unpredictable and unreliable, and walking, wheeling and cycling feel unsafe due to heavy and fast-moving traffic.
Managing and maintaining the network to ensure it adapts to climate change and changing travel habits is an ongoing challenge.
Through better use of technology, partnership working and reallocation of space, our road network is reliable, safe and efficient for all users. It is well maintained and more resilient to extreme weather events, and road deaths are a thing of the past.
We make better use of our existing infrastructure by giving more space to modes which move people and goods most efficiently rather than trying to accommodate more cars, vans and lorries.
The road network supports our region’s businesses to grow and thrive but balances this with creating safe and comfortable spaces on streets where people live or spend time.
A network that adopts a shared approach to safer streets, one that responds to the needs and wants of existing and new users, and provides short- and long-term benefits to the users.
|Our Core Strategy says we need to:||How our Big Move will contribute to these goals:|
We need to think differently about our roads, they are part of a holistic transport system to move people and goods, not just to move cars, vans and lorries. We can make roads more efficient and still reduce traffic. At the same time this can help create better places.
The use of space on our roads will be one of, if not the most influential way in which we can achieve our overall aims for the Core Strategy. It is a scarce resource and one which we will need to manage appropriately. Sometimes we may need to reduce the amount of space available for traffic, in order to give that space to active and public transport, which will in-turn discourage some car use.
Once again we need to think about accessibility differently. Previously we have been guilty of thinking in simple terms about how far a car, van or lorry can travel within a certain length of time. The further they could go was a measure of success. Unfortunately that kind of thinking simply re-enforces investment which seeks to continually improve this metric, often at the expense of other desirable outcomes (e.g. health and the environment) . To think differently we need to consider that success could mean that journeys are made within a more predictable journey time, as opposed to simply faster, and that the journey has been safe and contributed less to air pollution.
Reliable and safe journeys can still help create an economically successful region. We need to be targeted as to what’s the right approach for different parts of our network.
As with all our Big Moves we need to support the transition to all types of zero emission vehicles. Recharging and refuelling needs can largely be grouped into three: at home/business, en-route and at destination. The en-route elements is particularly important for how we plan our road networks. By working with the private sector we can help deliver a network of recharging and refuelling opportunities which meet all three of these needs, which over time will create more and more confidence for residents and businesses to make the switch.
Key Issues Facing People and Businesses
Reliability of journey times is a key factor in shaping people’s travel choices. Experiences of public transport users suggest that unreliable journeys are a key concern and research undertaken by TfWM suggests that people’s perception of the reliability of public transport is getting worse.
Delayed or unreliable journey times impact the freight and logistics sector by adding unplanned time and in some cases mileage onto journeys. This increases costs for the operator and the level of impact such as noise and emissions that each journey has.
The way the transport system and particularly our roads and streets are planned, managed and maintained will be critical to helping to improve the reliability and attractiveness of alternatives to the car such as public transport and to give business the confidence it needs to support and invest in the region.
Making our roads and services the safest they can be will be central to our aims to reduce traffic and improve accessibility. Thankfully the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on the region’s roads continues to fall, however, there is still more to be done if we are to create the conditions where people choose to increasingly use sustainable modes for their journeys and as the preferable safe choice.
Whilst road safety is generally good the perceptions of how dangerous our roads and streets are continues to be a key challenge. Research suggests that there is significant dissatisfaction with safety for pedestrians and cyclists and dissatisfaction with the quality of infrastructure for walking, cycling, wheeling and scooting. Challenges also exist around how people view their personal safety and security whilst travelling.
Research by TfWM shows that a high proportion of bus users felt safe whilst walking to (91%) and waiting (90%) at the bus stop during the hours of daylight, travelling on-board dipped slightly to 88%. Perceptions of bus safety during the hours of darkness were low compared to daylight hours. Respondents were more likely to feel unsafe waiting at the bus stop in hours of darkness (46% not very/not at all safe), than felt unsafe walking to the bus stop (38% not very/not at all safe) or travelling on the bus (31% not very/not at all safe). Regular bus users and females were consistently more likely to feel unsafe in the hours of darkness compared to other passenger sub-groups.
Our streets make up the majority of our public spaces and we use them not only for travel, but for living, learning, working, relaxing, playing, socialising and exercising in. Streets in the past have not always been designed with people in mind and certainly, since the 1960s, there has been a particular focus on accommodating high volumes of motorised vehicles. This combined with poor driver behaviour has made many areas less attractive and subject to a range of problems including road safety, air pollution and noise.
Post pandemic there has been an increase in the amount of time that people are spending in their local areas and high streets, and increasingly are recognising the value of having safe places to walk and cycle and to spend time in, however, without the right policies in the place this progress could be lost.
We need to make sure our roads are safer for everyone using them and that they help to improve the air we breathe. We recognize poor air quality can lead to long term health conditions. It also means we need to address the problems of major roads disconnecting communities, parents worried about how to keep their children safe and active, and increased isolation for older people, those with mobility impairments and people without access to a car.
Journey planning and wayfinding tools should provide people and business with consistent, simple and straightforward information through a range of channels – including physical (signs, posters) and online (internet, apps). Poor and fragmented information is a barrier to helping people making informed choices.
Key Issues Facing TfWM and Partners
The roles and responsibilities for managing the transport system, infrastructure and services sits across a range of organisations and actors. Policy delivery together with communications and engagement needs to be coherent and consistent. This can present challenges for how well co-ordinated plans are to develop, manage and operate it. This has implications for the user experience and the ability to deliver LTP outcomes.
To make progress with the aims of the LTP there will be some difficult decisions around how to manage the network. This will include making choices about the space we give to different modes but also on the wider complimentary policy measures that will need to support these decisions. In some cases these decisions will need cross boundary, possibly regional agreement to ensure a coherent approach and make it simple for people and businesses using the network.
Understanding the right solutions for people and places is only possible through collecting meaningful data and undertaking analysis to provide insight. Whilst improvements are being made to the richness of data on travel across the network there are still improvements that need to be made. This data is important to develop better strategy and to help with engagement to help people understand the issues and changes being made to the transport network, particularly where there is disruption, either as a result of short term change or where change will be over a longer period of time or permanent.
It will be important to demonstrate that we are delivering real benefits by making these changes. This includes thinking about the way our streetscapes and built environments are designed and how it can affect accessibility, safe and comfortable people feel when travelling. This is important and there is a need to be better at measuring and communicating the effects of what we do. We will use results to inform the development and planning process to improve strategy and communicate the benefits of change to the public and stakeholders.
Funding to invest into improvements to the network comes from a range of sources and this creates challenges around developing a coherent strategy. Funding arrangements are challenging as much of West Midlands funding is received from the Government. The allocation of 5 year settlements through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) is welcome progress but there are still other funding streams which can be used for improvements to the network, which are often modally focused, and may or may not align with proposals and processes around developing and delivering the CRSTS programme. This will continue to present challenges for securing the best delivery outcomes and co-ordinating the delivery of improvements to different parts of the network and for different users.
Funding to invest in the network can also be secured from new developments secured through the planning system (e.g. section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy). However, opportunities to secure funding can be missed where there is a lack of clear consensus on the improvements or changes required to the transport network.
Additionally the increasing costs of construction, operation and maintenance of the network will mean that an even sharper focus will be required on how best we use existing assets.
Setting a clear vision for its transport network particularly the Key Route Network will enable the West Midlands to make greater progress particularly in the roads sectors. WMCA and local authorities must make better use of existing data sources to help develop a clear set of proposals , enabling discussions on how best to use existing assets and capacity and to communicate the case for change and investment.
Ambition and Approach
For us to achieve the aims of the LTP, the West Midlands needs a more integrated, affordable and accessible transport network which works for everyone. Our roads and streets are critical to making it much easier to get around.
Traffic and especially car use has been returning to levels similar to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. With the levels of housing and employment growth forecast in the region, this could lead to even higher levels of traffic unless more trips are made by walk, wheel, cycle and scoot modes. As a result, it is important to manage the network efficiently.
We need to be smarter and use the infrastructure we have more efficiently to help reduce the impact of transport on people and places. We know that most people agree with this ambition. But to achieve change we will need to take some tough decisions which will not be popular with everyone. We have a finite amount of road space to allocate to different uses and, in certain streets and places, we will need to reduce the amount of space available for cars to create safer, more attractive spaces to support the shift to sustainable modes of transport, such as walking, cycling, wheeling, scooting and public transport.
The responsibility for planning, managing and maintaining our transport network falls to a range of organisations. This can make it more complex to achieve consistent approaches and applications of policy to effectively deliver change and efficiently manage and maintain it. However, the WM has developed strong partnerships and the RTCC has shown how the region can deliver a collaborative approach ensuring better outcomes for residents and businesses
The West Midlands sits at the heart of the national transport network and the roads through the region are managed by three separate bodies. The motorways and important trunk roads commonly referred to as the strategic road network are operated, managed and maintained by National Highways. The M6 Toll road which bypasses the M6 in Birmingham is privately operated by Midland Expressway Limited.
Within the West Midlands the majority of roads (around 9,000km) are managed by local authorities. Responsibility for developing and managing the Key Route Network is shared between WMCA and local authorities. The roads within the local authority boundaries are maintained by each of the seven local highway authorities.
The different organisations all have a role in helping to deliver our vision and encouraging the use of walking, cycling, wheeling, scooting together with public and shared transport.
There are a range of legislation and duties which inform decisions on how the highway network is managed. For the Key Route Network and other local authority roads, key powers and duties are set out in the Traffic Management Act 2004.
The Traffic Management Act (2004) places a duty on highways authorities to reduce and manage congestion and to collaborate effectively with other traffic authorities to achieve this. Local authorities are also responsible for ensuring a co-ordinated approach to maintaining public safety through approval of all works on the public highway.
Our key objectives for ensuring a Safe, Efficient and Reliable Transport network are to:
- Encourage travel behaviour change and the use of more sustainable modes of transport
- Promote public safety by reducing collisions and creating a safer & more accessible road network
- Deliver improved access to employment, health, leisure and educational facilities in line with the region’s vision for travel
- Promote economic activity in and through the region facilitating efficient freight & logistics operations
- Create a more reliable network, reduce air and noise pollution and carbon emissions.
- Ensure highway structures and road surfaces are designed and maintained with in-built resilience to cope with climate change and extreme weather events.
Using Our Network for Reliable and Safe Travel
To enable people and goods to move around the West Midlands sustainably and efficiently, we need our network to provide safe and reliable access across the region. In planning and developing the network there is a need to balance the needs of all network users, whilst promoting and prioritising walking, wheeling, cycling, scooting and public transport at every opportunity.
The West Midlands highway network comprises of a mix of different roads which perform different functions. Motorways in the region should be carrying larger vehicles on longer journeys to minimise the effects of motorised traffic on local streets. The Key Route Network carries around 70% of all traffic in the region and accommodates a complex mix of local and regional traffic. Other local roads perform a range of functions and are important places such as high streets and local centres. Most of the streets in the West Midlands are also places where people walk, cycle, shop and spend time with friends and family.
Traffic levels have been increasing and we need to improve the conditions for sustainable forms of travel. We need to reduce overall levels of traffic and simply ‘predicting and providing’ for growth in traffic is no longer an appropriate way of responding to transport problems. At the same time it also won’t be possible to provide significant new space or capacity for sustainable transport. In key corridors walking, cycling, scooting, wheeling and public transport compete for space with cars. Currently this often results in less than ideal circumstances for those travelling by sustainable modes.
At the heart of this LTP is the principle of decide and provide. If we decide that the way to achieve our LTP outcomes is by shifting travel behaviours away from cars to more sustainable modes then we will need to manage vehicle use in the region and consider the role of our highways in relation to movement and place. It is also important to ensure that the space in our cities is distributed equitably. The region has a large proportion of residents without access to a car.
We need to reimagine our highway network to help us create the conditions that make non-car modes the first choice especially for the 60% of trips in the region that are less than 5 miles. We have a finite amount of road space to allocate to different uses and, in certain streets, some of that space will need to be taken away from cars to provide more safe space for sustainable modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and buses.
As set out in the Walk, Wheel, Cycle and Scoot Big Move and our LCWIP, we are planning and building our Starley cycling network, which will run along different sorts of streets and we also have ambitious plans to continue to develop bus priority across the region. All require innovative approaches to encourage behaviour change
In some cases we may need to provide priority on a corridor for buses (which make much more efficient use of limited road space) but that may result in less space for general traffic. In other situations, it may make sense to build a segregated cycle lane on a parallel route away from major roads. There may also be instances where sharing the same road space at different times for different purposes will create additional scope to better provide for residents and businesses. Opportunities afforded by the continuing digitisation of the network should be explored to provide a dynamic road space catering for changing needs throughout the day
We don’t need to make every journey faster but we do need to make sure road users know they will arrive safely and on time. Reliability is more important for journey planning and in turn helps to encourage people to use other modes (private to public or sustainable transport). It can also help with road safety as it can help improve driver behaviour as they are not frustrated by unpredictable delays.
Using our existing infrastructure more efficiently will also be important as we will not be able to provide the additional capacity to meet demand. The reallocation of road space will be key to helping us deliver behaviour change that helps us fundamentally change the way that people and goods move around the region.
We are clear that in order to meet the objectives of this LTP we will need to use our existing infrastructure more efficiently. At the same time adding more capacity, particularly new highway capacity will, in most cases, not be the most economic or sustainable solution. New infrastructure is expensive to provide and maintain and creates pressure for space and impacts biodiversity. New infrastructure requires raw materials which have a significant environmental impact. Evidence shows time and time again that road schemes built to improve general traffic movements will generate new demand and quickly reach capacity again. This is known as induced demand.
With the impacts of climate change the cost of maintaining our infrastructure and assets will increase and we will need to consider carefully the benefits of new / enhanced infrastructure against the benefits of making best of use of what we already have.
All of our streets are important but the Key Route Network whilst only 7% of all roads carries 50% of all trips being made in the WM everyday. This means that many of the biggest challenges will be on the KRN and there is a need to use this highway space in a way that both helps us to shift to sustainable modes and support efficient movement of people and good around and across the region.
The region’s 7 local authorities are responsible for the roads in their areas, but there has been a lack of a strategic overview for managing roads across local authority boundaries.
Devolution created the opportunity to bring the most critical roads into a single 'Key Route Network' (KRN). In January 2016, the roads comprising the KRN was agreed by the local highway authorities and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM). The network has subsequently been adopted in legislation as part of the creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The network was developed with the aim to serve the main strategic demand flows for general traffic, as well as bus and freight operations across the conurbation. The defined main road network needed to support robust accessibility for businesses and logistics, and accommodate movement of rapid transport vehicles and core bus services to ensure journey time reliability and an enhanced role for Urban Traffic Control (UTC).
The day to day operation and maintenance of the KRN remains with the seven local highway authorities, whilst strategic oversight, coordination and management of the KRN is undertaken regionally by the WMCA on behalf of the seven constituent authorities. The non-KRN local roads will continue to be managed by the local highway authorities.
The WMCA has specific concurrent powers on the KRN in the following areas:
- Road Safety
- Bus Lane Contraventions
- Permit Schemes
- Air Quality
The WMCA maintains close working relationships with non-constituent authorities who in some cases manage sections of the KRN that falls outside of the WMCA area. Following on from the work to define the KRN, and its adoption in legislation, additional development work has taken place during 2017 including separating the network into 23 discreet routes.
The KRN is essential for the following main purposes:
- Serving the main strategic demand flows of people, goods and services;
- Serving large traffic volumes; and
- Providing connections to the national strategic road network.
At the same though in many locations it serves a place function where there are local centres or other key locations such as schools or public services. Much of the traffic on the KRN is also very local in origin. This creates a big challenge for how we use these busy sections of roads to meet the various needs of different people and different places.
Traffic levels across the region and on the KRN are increasing. A consequence of increased traffic levels across the KRN is the impact this has on the travelling public, particularly bus passengers. Across the West Midlands the bus remains the most important mode for moving people and growing our economy. Increased traffic congestion has seen the average speed of many bus services reduced to less than 10 miles per hour in the morning peak period (07:00 – 10:00).
The ability of the region’s businesses to make and receive deliveries of goods and raw materials efficiently is crucial to the growth of all sectors of the West Midlands' economy. The predictability of delivery times is critical to the productivity of manufacturing and retail businesses that rely on being able to deliver and receive the right goods at the right time.
In delivering the change to the transport system needed to deliver the objectives of the LTP some of the most difficult challenges and extensive changes are likely to be around how we plan, manage and maintain the KRN.
WMCA has a strategic responsibility for the KRN and we continue to develop a collaborative West Midlands approach to managing, maintaining and improving our Key Route Network of major roads which builds on existing roles and responsibilities.
The outcomes of the Government's 2021 consultation on changes to powers for KRNs are:
- local authorities to remain responsible for the maintenance and management of both KRN and local roads.
- Mayors to be afforded the power to direct local authorities, where agreement cannot be reached, to take forward ambitious measures on the KRN to address transport issues, such as cross city bus schemes.
- KRNs to be defined locally by agreement, without the need for secondary legislation, providing increased ability to address changes to the network
We will now build on these to continue to take a strategic view on competing needs across the KRN corridors to deliver optimum solutions for a variety of road-based modes that help us achieve the emerging Local Transport Plan (LTP)
Additionally, the fragmented set of powers and existing regimes across authorities in terms of highways maintenance and assets creates a complex environment within which to operate and we are looking at a much more coordinated maintenance and renewal of roads in the future.
Our role allows us to monitor the network more efficiently and to develop policies to develop and manage the network to help support more sustainable journeys, keep traffic moving and to maximise investment. We have been investing heavily in innovative traffic management and information systems to improve their reliability.
WMCA and local authorities will take a collaborative approach to managing the West Midlands Key Route Network (KRN) of roads, working closely with neighbouring authorities and National Highways and other partners to plan, manage, review and maintain the network in alignment with LTP objectives.
We will work with central Government to identify additional powers and funding required to improve the management of the KRN;
We will monitor our progress against an agreed set of KPIs, using a shared monitoring dashboard.
Roadspace reallocation is a way of managing demand and improving accessibility which is more equitable than measures such as road pricing. We need to make our streets are pleasant places to live and spend time in, where it is easy to access local facilities by walk, wheel, cycle or scoot. Getting how we use our streets right also has an important role in supporting economically successful places.
It can be achieved through simple measures such as using lines and bollards to change lane use and priority, taking out on-street parking spaces to widen the pavement, using planters to create parklets through to more substantial changes across an entire area such as the Places for People initiatives in Birmingham.
The Government has set out that it expects local authorities to take measures to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling and to support buses and public transport.
As noted we have a finite amount of road space to allocate to different uses and, in certain streets and places, we will need to reduce the amount of space available for cars to create safer, more attractive spaces to support the shift to sustainable modes of transport, such as walking, cycling, wheeling, scooting and public transport.
Competing demands for the same space by different transport modes or uses may already exist and cause issues, or be exacerbated when developing interventions. For example, removing through traffic on streets / rural lanes, providing bus and taxi only access or bus and light rail routes on the same corridor.
Government expects LTPs to consider ‘whole-route’ approaches to create corridors for buses, taxis, cycles and access only on key routes into town and city centres. Allocation of road space therefore needs to be carefully considered and we will need to take an outcome-based approach, considering what modes should be prioritised and how to achieve local aims. This should follow the road user hierarchy, which favours sustainable travel options over use of private motorised vehicles.
TfWM working with our local authorities will develop a framework to help guide decisions on how the region will use its streets to help us create a 45 minute region of 15 minute neighbourhoods. This will build on work already developed as part of KRN action plans.
We will use a network planning approach not just to help us to design changes in specific locations, but to manage how changes to streets can encourage people to move differently around areas. This will be explored further as part of WMCA plans, LTP Area Strategies and through our local authorities’ own delivery plans.
A set of criteria is needed to help with decision-making on prioritisation of transport infrastructure where roadspace is limited. It will also help to identify these different functions on different roads and enable the most appropriate solutions to be implemented.
The overarching aim of this will be to support higher proportions of journeys by sustainable modes of transport across the region and support a more people/user centric approach to how our streets are used reflecting the Sustainable Transport User Hierarchy. The aim is to have safe, accessible and high quality environments throughout the region.
There is not a one size fits all approach and solutions will need to be tailored to suit individual areas but a framework will help to:
- Support strategy development
- Define and articulate the function of different types of streets including the KRN
- Inform decisions around investments, scheme design and planning decisions
- Inform decisions about new development as well as reshaping existing environments
- Support with decisions on network development and management
- Help to resolve conflicts between different modes in locations on the network where space is at a premium/limited
- Future proof our streets for changes in mobility and new technologies.
In many cases new highway capacity will not be the most economic or sustainable solution. However, there are situations where new roads (and in some cases widening roads and junctions) may be necessary. In particular this will be required for some new developments. But in recent years, significant investment has been secured to deliver new roads and build network capacity in order to facilitate housing development and employment growth in the region.
Where such developments have not been sustainably planned and delivered, this has contributed to increased car dependency placing added pressure and demand on the network, undermining efforts to support more sustainable travel behaviours.
Other increases in capacity may be needed to remove traffic from sensitive communities, bringing significant improvements to residential or urban centre locations. It will be important to design schemes that bring significant reallocation of road space away from car use, providing high-quality facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
In this way, the community will benefit from safer, more accessible and healthier streets to support active and other personal transport options and public transport, without the scheme delivering a significant increase in capacity for cars and goods vehicles.
There will be a general presumption against new roads and highway capacity for the explicit purpose of providing additional highway capacity for general traffic .
Schemes approved via the WMCAs SAF including those for the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement will need to demonstrate how they help to achieve LTP objectives and proposals that include new capacity should demonstrate that this is required to:
- Support sustainable transport provision (specifically high quality facilities for walking, wheeling, cycling, public transport and shared mobility).
- Unlock sustainable developments or manage existing land more sustainably but should be delivered with sustainable transport provision.
- Explicitly support sustainable transport provision such as a semi-fixed bus corridor or a high capacity cycleway.
- With the support of digitisation we will seek to be creative with existing capacity by using the same road space for different purposes at different times.
- Support the delivery of active design principles which encourages more people to walk and cycle in their neighbourhoods.
New technologies and innovations will be a key part of planning and improving the transport networks. This will help to create a more efficient and reliable network and as we make some of the difficult decisions around roadspace allocation, making these changes in the most effective way. We need to use what is already there to its full capability.
The West Midlands is at the forefront of transport innovation and our proposals for a regulatory sandbox focused on the region would enable us to test and trial innovative new ways of developing, managing and maintaining the transport network.
As we rapidly shift towards Zero Emission Vehicles in the coming years we will need to make sure that the appropriate infrastructure is provided across the region. Our Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy will set out how the region will deliver this infrastructure. Locations close to the Key Route Network will be critical to provide the level of infrastructure needed to give confidence and enable people to switch to sustainable modes.
Technologies and innovations in how we move around e.g. through micromobility and Connected Autonomous Mobility (CAM). CAM brings with it the opportunities to bring about positive developments in road safety, mobility and productivity, as well as the local opportunities for innovation to support our industry and transport system development of which the West Midlands has already been at the forefront.
We will need to prepare for the ongoing progress towards connected and autonomous vehicles. Although fully autonomous vehicles (driverless vehicles) are not currently present on our roads, increasing numbers of vehicles on the road have some degree of autonomous features. Starting to future proof our network with systems for connected autonomous vehicles will be essential. This future proofing could include upgrading maintenance regimes for line markings and signs, deployment of fibre ducting in all public realm works/ street works to enable ease of future connectivity, consideration of safe harbour spaces on any new infrastructure, consideration of signals or sensors in uncontrolled crossings and so on.
Technology can be employed to help manage the network more efficiently and to help use existing infrastructure more effectively. Smart Infrastructure is the application of digital technology to our physical assets and offers the potential to use our assets more intelligently and enables us to get more from them. This includes using systems that will help to manage parking e.g. parking sensors, which provide live parking capacity data. Good quality information on parking locations and availability, makes use of the road network more efficient by avoiding circulation of drivers searching for parking spaces.
Traffic signals technology can be used to ensure operations are optimised for changing conditions, particularly along key corridors, at key junctions and in central areas to minimise queuing. By responding to levels of queuing and delay they can help to prioritise sustainable transport modes.
Other technologies can actively influence driver behaviour to reduce emissions, such as the Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) system. This aims to reduce carbon emissions, fuel consumption, and travel times by reducing the amount of acceleration and deceleration for HGVs in urban areas. Approaching vehicles are given speed recommendations based on current and future traffic light signal phase timings.
Increasing numbers of vehicles incorporating on board speed limiters will make digital enforcement of speed possible, providing further opportunities to smooth flow and improve emissions and safety.
Drones will be an important asset to better understand issues in real time. They can fill gaps where more traditional CCTV technology is not achievable or cost prohibitive. Drone technology has the potential to revolutionise the Public Safety industry. Price Waterhouse Cooper were asked to assess the potential economic benefits of drones delivering public sector services in urban areas such as the West Midlands. Their analysis estimates that over 15 years the use of drones to support delivery of public services in areas such as the West Midlands could lead to cost savings of £150 million. TfWM is now exploring the use of drone footage to supplement information and data being fed into the RTCC.
New technologies can help to gather and distribute information on conditions on the road network to enable effective management. Managing the network effectively will rely on making best use of available data on traffic conditions from the growing range of available sources. On a day-to-day basis, efficient network management will continue to develop systems to use information gained from these sources to:
- Allow network managers to respond quickly and effectively to provide a co-ordinated response to incidents and changing traffic conditions.
- Provide appropriate information to those travelling.
Vehicles are also increasingly connected, transferring data with the wider world. We need to ensure our transport and digital networks support these developments and are ready to make best use of the opportunities they provide. Transport volume monitoring sensors can also be used which can provide information on the use of different modes, journey time or tracking data.
As the home of UK transport innovation and leading the largest national transport innovation programme. We will continue to test and adopt new technology to improve our ability to manage and operate the transport network more reliably and safely.
The region will lobby Government to designate the WMCA as the UK’s first Trailblazer Transport Regulatory Sandbox area to support accelerating the delivery of transport services and infrastructure to improve accessibility .
WMCA and local authorities will ensure that improvements to the KRN take account of the latest guidance regarding CAM requirements as appropriate. We will develop an action plan with specific interventions to future-proof our transport systems for autonomous vehicles, in collaboration with local authorities, National Highways, public transport operators and other stakeholders.
WMCA will develop a West Midlands ZEV infrastructure strategy with local authorities, drawing on their existing strategies and with other stakeholders to ensure there is a network of zero emission vehicle charging / refuelling infrastructure located on and around the KRN.
WMCA and local authorities will develop and monitor technology enhancements for transport network including the Key Route Network through the RTCC-Highways Investment Strategy in collaboration with partners.
TfWM will develop an action plan with specific interventions to future-proof our transport systems for autonomous vehicles, in collaboration with local authorities and other stakeholders.
Develop and adopt the use of a Key Route Network Performance monitoring dashboard and produce evidence-based performance reports of the KRN.
Creating the right conditions where everyone can safely and reliably choose walking, cycling, scooting and wheeling as their first and obvious choice for most short journeys is a key aim for this LTP. Safer roads in the West Midlands are an essential requirement for all residents, businesses and visitors travelling in and through our region. It is important we are clear on the causes of and the solutions to road safety issues. In particular, there is a need to take action to improve the experiences of the most vulnerable road users & communities (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists etc.)
Using newly devolved powers; the WMCA, the constituent authorities and partners such as West Midlands Police and the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner; have already jointly agreed a collective goal of achieving a 40% reduction in the amount of KSI’s across the region by 2028.
There is a need to accelerate progress on tackling road safety in order to support the outcomes of this LTP.
The principle strategic outcome for road safety in our region is:
Reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads.
In addition to the above, other objectives will include:
- A reduction in the number of vulnerable people being injured on our region’s roads and addressing gaps in equalities to promote inclusive growth;
- Encouraging more people to choose active travel, reducing car usage and improving our region’s air quality; and
- Making road spaces safer for all users, thereby reducing the economic costs of collisions on society
The first reporting period of the regional strategy (2018-2020) showed a positive 13.2% reduction in killed and seriously injured (KSI) road casualties per 100,000 population across the Metropolitan Region (projecting that this was on track).
The region is currently reviewing its Road Safety Strategy and to reflect proposed changes, this LTP sets out a more stretching target of a 50% reduction in killed and seriously injured road casualties per 100,000 population by 2030.
Pedestrians are the region's most vulnerable road user accounting for the highest proportion of killed and seriously injured casualties. 78% of all road incidents occur where there is no physical crossing facility within 50 metres.
Pedal cyclists and motorcyclists are also disproportionately represented in casualty statistics. We will work collaboratively with our partners to design infrastructure that reduces high levels of risk exposure experienced vulnerable road users.
The West Midlands will integrate Vision Zero into the future thinking of road safety – a long-term mission that recognises that deaths and serious injuries on the road are not an acceptable price to pay for mobility. Vision Zero road safety strategies are underpinned by the Safe Systems approach, based on:
- Safe road users
- Safe vehicles
- Safe speeds
- Safe roads and mobility
- Post-crash response
In addition to achieving a 40% reduction in the amount of KSI’s across the region by 2028 the West Midlands will also adopt a more stretching target of a 50% reduction in killed and seriously injured road casualties by 2030.
Publish a new Regional Road Safety Strategy in 2023 which sets out more detail on the type and focus of measures.
We will work with operators and other partners to improve safety and to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour on the transport network.
Through the LTP Area Strategies there are opportunities to design out hazards and create safer streets using a range of measures will be pursued to support the regional road safety ambitions. These measures will make streets safer for all users and more attractive for active and personal mobility travel options.
Keeping the West Midlands moving safely, efficiently and reliably
Achieving coordinated and efficient network management of the West Midlands transport system is complex and involves multiple partners. It is essential in delivering the outcomes of this LTP.
More efficient, well managed , reliable traffic flows brings benefits through better journey time reliability and a more pleasant traveler experience for all road users helping to create the conditions to encourage behaviour change to shift people to more sustainable forms of travel and to help improve access for everyone.
A well managed and reliable network:
- Good for people and helping them to make the right travel choices,
- Good for businesses,
- Assists freight & logistic operators to plan effectively especially for just in time deliveries,
- Is key to improving road safety,
- Is important to help tackle carbon and improve air quality and reduce noise pollution.
It involves a range of organisations who have a range of duties, powers and resources at their disposal. These include smarter traffic lights and intelligent traffic management, improved road design, use and enforcement of speed limits, well managed and enforced parking, real-time traffic monitoring and signage.
In addition, measures to better plan, deliver and communicate the impacts of roadworks, network maintenance and events and how to avoid them also plays a key part of our collective strategy.
Through a collaborative partnership and using the powers and responsibilities of WMCA, local and national highway authorities and key partners including National Highways and West Midlands Police, WMCA and local authorities will seek to improve the operational efficiency of the transport network.
This will be done through a range of initiatives and measures to better manage the operation and maintenance of the highway network and its response to disruption so that it runs smoothly, and the effects of traffic on communities and the environment are minimised.
Key areas of focus will be:
- The Regional Traffic Control Centre (RTCC)
- Improving Urban Traffic Control
- Managing Parking
- Traffic Enforcement
- Behaviour Change/Travel Demand Management
Across the West Midlands the majority of roads are managed on a day to day basis by local highway authorities. The strategic road network (M5, M6, M40,M42) are managed by National Highways from their regional operations centre (ROC) in Quinton. The M6 Toll is managed by Midland Expressway Limited.
Effective multi agency collaboration is critical for the management of the transport system and particularly the road network when there are cross boundary programmes of work or incidents that affect traffic flow, particularly outside of the normal operating hours.
The Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC) supports partners across the region in managing the network and planning for and mitigating disruptions. It’s a hub for:
- Transport for West Midlands
- transport operators
- emergency services
- local authorities
- National Highways
The RTCC provides us with the means with how we work with the region’s highway authority partners, transport operators and other agencies to manage the day to day operations of the network, planned events such as major construction programmes and culture and sporting events as well as major incidents.
The RTCC is also essential in supporting the region in better coordination of incidents and the management of major sporting, cultural and business events.
Demand for travel will increase as the region’s population continues to grow. We are upgrading infrastructure to help meet demand. Sometimes this means disruption to roads and public transport as we make changes. The RTCC utilises a number technology products, live data feeds and CCTV to monitor the West Midlands transport network.
When things go wrong, the RTCC helps people get around the network using:
- social media
- information on our website
- text message and email alerts
- real-time information screens at bus stops
We also have a system that collects information about disruptions. The system feeds the information to navigation apps like Google Maps.
The RTCC can talk directly to transport operators to warn them about disruptions. It also warns people about planned disruptions in advance.
Whilst digital platforms are very useful we also need to continue to think about how we continue to reach the 300,000 people that are not digital users or able to use online resources.
The RTCC will play a key role as we continue to develop and improve our regional approach to network management. Working together to provide better travel information and provide real time Open Data to support development of travel planning by third parties. These systems will be supported by a growing network of technology to help us monitor, understand, analyse and manage the network. These include:
- Utilising historic and live data from our technology partners
- Variable Message Signs,
- Passive sensor detectors,
- traffic counters,
- Advanced Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and
- CCTV cameras
These systems will also allow us to monitor our progress in meeting targets for the performance of the KRN in areas such as reliability, delay and network speed.
The Highways Investment Plan aims to provide a single source of information about highways investment in the West Midlands.
The information is displayed on an online platform providing an interactive experience. To date the Highways Investment Plan covers major TfWM highway schemes along with a selection of Local Authority schemes. This will expand as more information becomes available to TfWM.
The plan highlights some of the crucial work we’re delivering to improve road infrastructure and increase capacity and traffic flow
We will also explore new opportunities to improve the impact of the RTCC that could be achieved through new powers. For example, TfWM would like to see the wider use of Traffic Officers on the KRN, in order to support future investment and maintenance programmes and to help deal with planned and unplanned incidents. This has been trialled as part of an operation Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC).
Technology such as drones can increase visibility of network and open up potential mitigation responses.
WMCA will continue to develop and invest in the RTCC to:
- Minimise the impacts of disruptions on our local communities, businesses and visitors
- Manage the transport network in a more efficient way that supports a shift to more sustainable forms of travel in the region
- Strengthen our established partnerships with the key transport service providers operating across our region
- Deliver improvements in incident management via Incident Management System and enhanced data streams
- Monitor and continuously seek to improve journey times on our local roads
- Develop new communication campaigns to keep our residents, businesses and visitors informed of network disruptions.
- Connect CCTV to the RTCC
- Work with our local authority colleagues to introduce new technologies to support the efficient movement of traffic on the highway network.
- Use new and innovative technology to understand the transport network’s performance. This helps us respond better when things go wrong.
- Explore opportunities to improve local authorities’ Urban Traffic Control capabilities.
We will continuously develop and monitor technology enhancements for the transport network including the Key Route Network through the RTCC in collaboration with partners.
We will continue to explore opportunities to improve network management in the West Midlands such as the wider use of Traffic Officers on the KRN and pavement parking enforcement by lobbying Government for additional devolution of funding and powers to the region.
Ensure we reflect the diverse nature of our region and not simply be digital by default. We will continue to consider how best communicate to a range of different groups.
Managing where vehicles stop and park is a key part of keeping the region moving. All car journeys start and end at a parking space. Analysis suggests that cars and vans spend over 90% 96% of the time parked and are in use for only a small amount of time.
The availability (spaces, location, times) and cost of parking are significant influences on how people choose to travel and also on the vehicles they use. On both a regional and national scale public transport fares have dramatically increased compared to motoring costs which have remained comparatively level with the median household disposable income.
This has resulted in public transport being viewed as the ‘more expensive’ way to travel compared to driving in the region. Parking costs can also aggravate this issue, with free car parking compounding the perceived cost effectiveness of driving, leading to fewer people opting for public transport. We know local centres with strong parking controls promote higher bus use. Whilst analysis suggests that actual costs between public transport and car travel are roughly similar (when wider costs of purchase and operating the vehicle are considered), most people’s perception is that car travel will be significantly cheaper than using public transport. Parking measures and charging are therefore important to manage travel demand by private car.
Inconsiderate and illegal parking has a direct impact on the safety and quality of our streets and creates problems for other road users including public transport and freight. Nationally the majority of car parking takes place off-street but across the WM there are significant areas where on-street parking is the only option and this creates a range of challenges.
Kerb space in many areas is an important commodity and as the region grows there will be more demand for these spaces to accommodate deliveries, service vehicles, pick-ups and drop-offs, trees, public spaces, wider footpaths and bicycle lanes.
Across the region the amount of space (on and off-street) given over to parking is significant. There are better, more productive ways to use much of this space and where development potential exists, land currently occupied by car parking can be put to more productive use.
The amount of car parking provided in the more accessible areas of the region such as Birmingham City Centre is being reduced to help shift travel behaviours. Robust parking standards as part of planning policy and reviews of parking in key centres are essential. At the same time how parking is designed into developments is also important to ensure that people do park their vehicles sensibly and safely.
Whilst a level of parking is required, a pragmatic approach to managing the supply of parking is needed as part of an integrated transport strategy.
New ways of managing the demand for and availability of parking are needed to help balance these growing demands. It will also be important to ensure that the right amount of parking for cycling, scooting. motorcycles and public transport is provided in the right places.
The West Midland’s local authorities are responsible for the development and implementation of parking policies and planning policies related to new development/regeneration.
Parking management is an important transport planning tool, enabling us to influence how people may choose to travel, with the aim of encouraging them to use more sustainable forms of transport and helping to reduce the impacts of transport on people and places. It needs to be delivered hand in hand alongside other measures in this LTP to deliver behaviour change.
At the same time it is important to manage parking so that it does not create road safety problems or worsen conditions for other users e.g. blocking pavements or causing delays to bus services.
Full digitisation of TRO’s will open the way for better management of road space. Initial information on locality and then ultimately availability of spaces to reduce unnecessary movement of vehicles on network seeking parking and loading opportunities.
This LTP acknowledges the need to reduce the reliance on cars, and that this will also reduce the demand for car parking. The region will need to put in place the right parking management measures to change behaviour so that people travel more sustainably. Parking will be used to manage demand for travel and address safety issues through changes to availability, pricing and restrictions.
Through developing the Area Strategies TfWM and local authorities will explore :
- The need for new / different parking policies to address the availability and pricing of parking in centres, neighbourhoods and on corridors
- The need for updated/revised parking standards to ensure that where accessibility is good parking provision is appropriate and that other measures to reduce car dependence e.g. car clubs are considered as part of the planning process.
- The role of pricing to encourage a shift to cleaner, less environmentally impactful vehicles
- Ensuring that the right level of parking for sustainable modes is considered properly.
- Provision for freight & logistics – loading/deliveries
- Parking restrictions which were introduced many years ago still reflect current needs and issues.
To support better parking management in the West Midlands WMCA will:
- Continue to lobby Government on behalf of our local authorities for the introduction of pavement parking powers outside of London.
- Explore how new technology can be used to manage kerbside space in a more efficient way using real time information and through the digitisation of Traffic Regulation Orders.
Enforcement of the network is important to ensure its efficient and safe operation, supporting our objectives for a safe, efficient and reliable network. As set out in the Behaviour Change Big Move effective enforcement is essential to ensuring the effectiveness of measures to manage demand and prioritise access for higher priority Sustainable Transport Users.
Across the region traffic management measures are being used to support this including:
|Excessive speed is considered to one of the biggest problems in road safety. Not only does it contribute towards the severity of injuries, but it also deters walking and cycling. Speed limits are introduced by local authorities (National Highway on SRN). Enforcement of speed limits in the West Midland is done in partnership between the local authorities and WM Police.|
Bus lanes and bus priority
|Increasing bus priority is key to making buses services more reliable and more attractive. Not only do delays worsen accessibility and reduce the number of people who can access locations in a reasonable journey time it also increases service operating costs. Through our Bus Service Improvement Plan we have committed to introduce over 100km of additional bus lanes in the region. Enforcement should be a key part of all bus priority measures delivered in the region. Bus Lanes and bus priority (including bus gates) is introduced and enforced by local authorities but WMCA does share concurrent powers.|
|The need to encourage active travel modes requires better quality infrastructure and in some cases the re-assignment of highway space. Ensuring that this infrastructure is protected from obstructions such as parked vehicles is key and delivers residents safety.|
Moving Traffic Offences/Yellow box junctions
|Government has recently made it possible for some local authorities to apply for new powers for the civil enforcement of moving traffic contraventions (MTCs) by commencing provisions in Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 (TMA). A study of box junction contravention within the West Midlands found that across five junctions over three days, 3,768 vehicles were directly or indirectly delayed by box junction contraventions. Extrapolating this finding to the Key Route Network as a whole estimated that thousands of hours of delay is caused by approx. 3.5 million yellow box contraventions every year. Data also suggests that moving traffic offences also contribute towards road safety issues.|
Access Restrictions, Clean Air Zones, School Streets, Places for People
In some areas of the West Midlands a range of access restrictions have been implemented to support behaviour change and deliver local benefits from improving road safety and supporting sustainable travel to driving air quality improvements. Measures such as Places for People, School streets and Clean Air Zones are likely to become more familiar measures as part of this LTP.
Parking restrictions/Red Routes
Parking measures and Red Route restrictions and have been introduced to help manage the network and improve journeys and ensure safety and in some areas prioritise kerbside availability for users e.g. residents parking schemes to reduce/prevent commuter/shopper parking. Responsibility for the introduction of parking controls and their enforcement sits with local authorities.
The enforcement of on and off-street parking regulations is a key element of parking management. Illegal parking is inconsiderate. It can create a number of problems including congestion and compromised driver and pedestrian safety and can create difficulties for residents and businesses.
This is important across the network but particularly so on KRN, illegally parked vehicles can cause unnecessary disruption.
Digitisation of Traffic Regulation Orders and the ability to manage kerb space dynamically e.g. for loading or when temporary changes to the network are required will further support improved enforcement.
Street Works Permits
Street work permits schemes are used to control the undertaking of works/roadworks on the highway network. Where permit schemes have been introduced they have effectively cut works times, reduced inconvenience for road users and helped manage congestion. A coordinated view of current and upcoming roadworks will allow appropriate planning to mitigate impact of scheduled works on road users.
Permit schemes are being introduced by the constituent authorities in 2018/19 (Coventry already has a scheme in place with Warwickshire). Permit schemes enable the potential to introduce lane rental schemes to manage and coordinate roadworks minimising the impacts on congestion.
Trial lane rental schemes by TfL and Kent County Council have identified further efficiencies in manging roadworks, reducing congestion. TfWM is working with local authorities to review the potential for a lane rental scheme to provide a positive impact on managing congestion and associated works, particularly those impacting the KRN.
Collaborate with West Midlands Police and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to enhance enforcement against motorists who deliberately chose to drive dangerously on all road types.
- Utilise digital speed enforcement to optimise speed compliance
- Develop the Road Safety Strategic Group aimed at developing effective target-orientated collaborations to achieve agreed regional casualty reduction targets.
Ensure that bus lanes form a key part of bus priority measures being introduced in the region.
Yellow Box Junctions/Moving Traffic Offences
TfWM will support local authorities as well as relevant partners, such as West Midlands Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, to develop applications for moving traffic officers enforcement powers.
Parking Restrictions and Red Routes
Local authorities will seek to ensure that Traffic Regulation Orders are consistent, enforceable and appropriate and provide a level of parking enforcement that is commensurate to the problem in order to ensure that illegal parking does not create disruption on the network.
TfWM and local authorities will continue to explore how technologies can deliver benefits in managing and enforcing parking and improve access to parking services and information.
Street Works Permits
We will monitor the further development, delivery, and reporting of Street Works Permits and Street Manager. WMCA will work local authorities to coordinate activities to develop the future plan for permits within WMCA.
WMCA and local authorities will continue to consider where opportunities for measures such as Clean Air Zones, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods/Places for People and other access restrictions/traffic management measures are appropriate to support the delivery of LTO outcomes.
As set out in the Behaviour Change Big Move, communications can be an effective tool in encouraging those who may already have good alternatives to make different choices. Travel behaviour change will be encouraged and delivered through effective management of the transport system alongside wider communications and engagement on why these changes need to be made.
We need to ensure reliability and quality of journeys provided by the strategic and local road network, rail and bus networks, cycling and walking routes we deliver improvements and changes to the network. We recognise that customers can make intelligent decisions when given the right information.
TDM will be used by TfWM and local authorities to help people to make informed decisions about their journeys. In order to provide the travelling customer with targeted advice our travel demand management approach is increasingly evidence based and data led. This enables a granular approach to be used to target travel advice specifically by mode, time and location placing the customer experience at the heart of what we do.
To help ensure we have a resilient transport network TfWM and partners have been delivering Travel Demand Management campaigns. TDM campaigns aim to explain disruptions and the benefits of using different types of transport or to travel at different times of the day in order to manage transport demand efficiently across the network. These have been key as part of efforts to reduce network disruption as a result of major roadworks e.g. HS2, M6 junction 10,the metro extensions works in the centre of Birmingham and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
TfWM and local authorities will also develop campaigns that will help to encourage longer term behaviour change. Our approach to delivering behaviour change projects will focus on promoting a range of interventions and measures that encourage behaviour change; ensuring our customers are supported to make better travel choices. We will work in support of active travel infrastructure delivery to activate this as an option for local communities and realise the opportunities that new technologies can play in helping to deliver long lasting travel behaviour change across the region.
Our approach to TDM is framed as the 4 Rs:
- leave at a different time - retime
- use a different route - reroute
- work flexibly and commute less - reduce
- walk, cycle or get public transport instead of driving - remode
WMCA and local authorities will maintain a programme of interventions designed to encourage people to make sustainable journeys. We will support this through journey planning tools and information to encourage travel behaviour change and mode shift, and in order to make the most efficient use of available capacity (particularly during peak periods).
Support investment projects
TfWM will lead on TDM and in other instances we will support, depending on capacity within our partner organisations and ultimately to ensure that information and advice about disruption is not singularly focused and adds choice and decisions across all modes.
Solutions development as well as behavioural change and communications and marketing tailored travel demand management strategies may require traffic regulation and management, infrastructure investments and operational adjustments including customer incentives and physical improvements (the latter sometimes being tactical and temporary).
Behavioural change and communications
TfWM will deliver a behaviour change communications strategy with principles to:
- Improve how we keep in touch with the majority of network users;
- One joint and consistent message with partners;
- Communicate and engage with young people better;
- Ensure new travel choices stick; and
- Enable people to see the positive personal health and wellbeing benefits of active travel and wider air quality benefits for everyone.
Freight and Logistics
Freight and logistics movements are vital to the West Midlands economy and supply the goods and services used by people every day. Freight movements do not simply occur but rather they reflect our economic activity and provide the means to trade nationally and internationally.
Pre-pandemic, the West Midlands was the fastest growing region outside London, with Gross Value Added reaching a record high in 2017 and the region also experiencing record numbers of job creation. The region is served by a complex network of freight and logistics movements, which impose a variety of demands on our transport networks.
The West Midlands metropolitan area is located at the heart of the UK and is at the centre of the UK’s motorway and railway networks. Our location gives us strong access to major domestic and international markets and provides the West Midlands with a strategic economic advantage.
The region is within the so called ‘golden triangle’; a concentration of haulage companies around Birmingham and Sandwell alongside the M5 and M6, and between Leicester and Nottingham alongside the M1. The ‘golden triangle’ sits within relatively close proximity to multiple distribution centers, East Midlands Airport, nationally important ports and a 4 hour drive from much of the country, reflecting the associated importance of national and international supply chains.
The ‘logistics and transport technologies’ sector (which includes some non-freight transport related jobs) employs over 100,00 people in the wider West Midlands region.
The success and growth of the freight & logistics in the region, driven by economic growth and consumer demand, has implications for the transport system and impacts on people, places and the environment.
Locally the West Midlands Key Route Network, comprising 605km (7%) of all the roads within the local authority road network, is crucial for the movement of national and regional road freight. The Black Country route and the Coventry to Birmingham route experience the highest rates of KRN HGV traffic (averages of 8% and 5% of all traffic respectively).
Freight movements in the West Midlands are generally made up of trips passing through on the motorway network, originating or arriving from other regions or even countries and internal movements within the region. Urban freight is primarily concerned with the so-called “last mile” delivery to businesses and consumers and as such van traffic makes up more than 80% of urban and city goods vehicle traffic.
Last-mile delivery is defined as the movement of goods from a transportation hub to the final delivery destination. The final delivery destination is typically a personal residence. Last-mile delivery is driving some of the growth in the freight transport industry in terms of the increasing number of LGV (light goods vehicles) on the UK’s roads.
There has been a steady increase in the number of vans on the roads and this is the only segment of traffic that is growing significantly. There was a 48% increase in the number of LGVs licensed between 2000 and 2015, and LGV traffic has increased steadily from 60 billion vehicle-kilometres in 2004 to 79 billion vehicle kilometres in 2016, an increase of 31%. Van traffic grew by 2.0 per cent between 2018 and 2019 alone. LGV traffic growth has been more rapid than for any other vehicle type both nationally and in London.
‘Levelling up’ public health and social outcomes in the region is also a key strategic challenge for the West Midlands. Road Safety continues to be a challenge with a need to further reduce the number of people injured in collisions involving HGVs and vans.
Between January 2019 and December 2021 West Midlands there were 1,473 incidents involving a goods vehicle. These incidents resulted in 12 fatalities, 114 serious injuries and 551 slight injuries.
Air pollution in the West Midlands affects some 2.8 million people, reducing average life expectancy by up to 6 months, and being responsible for direct and indirect economic costs of several hundred million pounds per year. The West Midlands urban area was predicted to have the fourth highest nitrogen dioxide levels by 2019 and the region’s urban air quality has already been identified to be above the legal limit in urban areas.
Per vehicle, HGVs and LGVs tend to be the greatest polluters of NOx, only mitigated by the smaller number of total miles that they travel compared with cars. Thus, whilst not the only road traffic polluter, LGVs and HGVs contribute significantly to poor air quality in the West Midlands.
Measures in the West Midlands including Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone are intended to help address some of the air quality issues, however, it is noted that further improvements are likely to be required as a result of the need to tackle particulates. It is noted that this creates conditions of uncertainty for the freight industry.
Freight transport currently represents one third of carbon emissions from all transport (which in turn represents one third of all carbon emissions), but represents only 18% of road mileage, i.e. has two times the carbon impact. To hit the West Midlands WM2041 target as well as the Government’s 2050 net zero target, the freight and logistics sector will require considerable decarbonisation.
However, as of yet, freight and logistics is the hardest transport sector to decarbonise as long as diesel remains the only viable fuel. There is no Electric Vehicle (EV) solution for HGVs, and while there is an EV solution for Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs), the recharging infrastructure is still not as widespread as it needs to be.
Most freight is carried by road but there are some opportunities to shift more freight in the West Midlands to Rail Through the WMRE Rail Investment Strategy the West Midland’s is seeking to develop options for overcoming (wider) regional capacity challenges around rail freight, such as through increased capacity via the Midlands Rail Hub and maximising shared benefits for passenger and freight services via a range of measures including the use of capacity released by HS2 and better integrated passenger and freight service timetable planning.
The West Midlands is blessed with a network of canals across the region. Initiatives to explore how to re-use them for freight would require innovative approaches, such as management of capacity, new types of barge and connections with customers. Whilst the use of canals for freight needs to be encouraged where viable there will be limited case for the canal network to support a significant shift of freight and logistics movements.
Improving freight & logistics is not solely a transport policy matter and also needs to be supported with action in a number of policy areas. Freight & logistics is critical to most if not all sectors of the economy as well as a significant sector in its own right and forms a key element of the West Midlands Plan for Growth. Urban planning is key and often fails to accommodate for the movement of freight, causing pinch points and compromising safety. Similarly the jobs and skills agenda is also key to ensure that the sector has a pool of adequately trained labour and improving the overall perception of the industry.
It is clear that there is a need for more collaborative working between the public and private sectors to ensure that policy measures support a broad range of outcomes. The public sector can’t solve freight issues in isolation – freight trips are generated by business and consumer demand, so it needs to understand these and facilitate, not just constrain and restrict. The industry is almost entirely owned and operated by the private sector and is highly competitive. It has a strong interest in achieving low cost, on-time deliveries, and initiatives and interventions will only be adopted if they do not impose disproportionate additional costs.
The areas where local government is best placed to focus its energy to support freight & logistics are generally:
- Measures that help to ensure reliable, safe and efficient journeys by shifting in particular private car trips to other modes to free up capacity and by improving access to loading spaces and infrastructure e.g. through innovative technologies which would allow dynamic management of kerbspace including booking (linked to the digitision of Traffic Regulation Orders). TfWM continues to ensure that the West Midland network operates efficiently through the Regional Transport Co-ordination Centre. At the same time the region will need to work with rail industry partners to ensure that the benefits of HS2 and the Midlands Rail Hub are optimised to support an increase of rail freight to/from and through the West Midlands.
- Supporting an improvement in both road user and vehicle safety (through supporting and lobbying for improvements in vehicle design).
- Supporting the provision of zero emission vehicles and refuelling/charging infrastructure alongside access restrictions such as Clean Air Zones to further drive and encourage change in vehicle fleets.
- Through planning policy to ensure that developments which generate large volumes of freight traffic or involve the transport of bulk materials should make use of rail for freight movements wherever practical. New developments should be designed in a way which allows for freight and logistics (and servicing) arrangements to be integrated. Additional planning restrictions on loading should be reviewed to ensure more flexible arrangements (e.g. outside of peak times) can be explored where necessary.
- Supporting innovation in new last mile operations including e-cargo bikes and parcel lockers and mobility hubs.
It is the view of TfWM that a lack of data is often the key challenge that threads across all challenges regarding freight and logistics in the West Midlands (and beyond). Government echoed this in the DfT’s Future of Freight Plan.
To address the freight evidence gap TfWM are working with public, private and academic sector partners and to develop a consolidated freight evidence base. This includes working with Midlands Connect and the National Infrastructure Commission to share knowledge around freight and logistics. We are also working with academics and industry trade bodies such as the FTA to help us to reflect the anecdotal needs of the industry in our analysis. WMCA is keen to explore opportunities for a West Midlands Freight Transport Observatory which would create a West Midlands Freight Transport Observatory (WMFTO). A cross sector stakeholder-led WMFTO can be used as a platform for the development of urban analytics initiatives by collecting, analysing and disseminating information that will have the potential to directly inform policy development in this area.
TfWM working with local authorities and partners will:
Ensure that the development and management of the West Midlands transport network helps to support more efficient, safe and reliable freight & logistics journeys.
We will work through West Midlands Rail Executive to ensure that the benefits of HS2 and the Midlands Rail Hub are optimised to support an increase of rail freight to/from and through the West Midlands.
Through the Regional Road Safety Strategy take forward measures to improve road user safety and support and lobby for improvements to vehicle safety and improvements in vehicle design.
Support the provision of zero emission vehicle and refuelling infrastructure and use measures such as Clean Air Zones to further drive and encourage change in vehicle fleets.
Planning policy should ensure that developments which generate large volumes of freight traffic or involve the transport of bulk materials should make use of rail for freight movements wherever practical.
Ensure that new development is planned and delivered in a way that integrates freight, logistics and servicing from the outset.
Support innovation in new last mile operations including e-cargo bikes and parcel lockers and mobility hubs and in using new technologies to manage and control the kerbside to aid loading and servicing.
A Well Maintained Network
To ensure a resilient network, how we plan and manage the network must go hand in hand with ensuring that existing and new assets are maintained in an efficient, timely and sustainable way. This includes both the surface of roads and pavements but also roadside technologies such as traffic signals.
A well-maintained highway network is a fundamental part of the change we need to make. Our streets are key to how we choose to travel around and how transport impacts on people and places. A well maintained network is critical to give people the confidence that they can make safe and reliable journeys. This is essential to help protect vulnerable road users, help people to feel safe when walking or cycling, improve the use of public transport and improve accessibility.
Existing and future challenges around the need to deliver significant behaviour change could require us to use our infrastructure differently in future. Significantly we may need to less new infrastructure if we can shift travel behaviours. This could be very important given the cost of maintaining our existing assets is going to become more and more expensive due to the costs and pressures on raw materials and the impacts of climate change and the cost of energy.
This is a key area of concern and the road conditions statistics on Local Authority Roads continues to show a decline in the condition of road surfaces, surveys of residents highlight that road surface conditions (pot holes) is a big concern.
Local authorities are responsible for maintaining the highways in their area under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980.
TfWM has however been working with local highway authorities to review the condition of the existing assets. In future there could be opportunities from developing collaboratively strategic maintenance programmes for the KRN and help us to move to the proactive management of road condition where currently this is reactive in many cases.
Funding levels have been a challenge. CRSTS consolidates funding from previous allocations of the Highways Maintenance Block, Potholes Fund and Integrated Transport Block. The response to the impacts of climate change is likely to need a far more co-ordinated response in the region.
The West Midlands Road Condition Study suggested that an increase in funding, largely in the form of an accelerated maintenance programme, would generate economic returns of £6.50 for every £1 of tax-payers money.
The Movement for Growth survey conducted in January 2017 identified the critical importance of the quality of road surface on the KRN to the experience of all road users and has an important role to play in reducing noise pollution. Poor carriageway condition, which is usually in the form of cracked or potholed road surface, loose stones and debris, can create congestion through required roadworks and lead to delays.
In addition to maintenance of the surfaces, there is a need to ensure that the wider assets of the highway network such as traffic signs, traffic signals, road markings, average speed enforcement cameras, variable message signs, bus lane enforcement cameras and other sensor technologies are well maintained.
These support the efficient running of the network however lack of maintenance resources impacts on the running of these critical tools on the KRN. This will become more and more important for the successful delivery of the Local Transport Plan objectives and is key to supporting measures set out in the Bus Service Improvement Plan, Gear Change and improved cycling infrastructure as local authorities apply and implement moving traffic offence powers which will all require additional technologies to be deployed and maintained.
They are also the foundational elements of a future road network where the technology assets are critical to delivering new infrastructure to support decarbonisation through electric charging infrastructure, connected and autonomous networks and 5G technologies etc.
Research undertaken by WMCA suggests that overall, the West Midlands is experiencing and is projected to experience significant changes to the climate, with weather events projected to become more extreme.
The West Midlands will experience both warmer and drier summers, which in turn have the potential to cause socio-economic and environmental problems through the impacts they will have on people, infrastructure and the natural environment. The failure of key infrastructure presents a significant challenge to the region and the UK.
Drainage is likely to be a significant area of challenge in terms of impacts for highway assets. There will be a need to review highways drainage infrastructure and maintenance regimes in light of the challenges of climate change.
Adaptation will be more successful if action is taken within the next decade, and, if investment is put into the right responses, interventions could not only protect us from climate impacts, but also provide multiple benefits across society, the economy and support our broader efforts to tackle climate change through carbon reduction goals.
Medium and High Fluvial Flood Risk Zones and Major Roads shown across the West Midlands.
Infrastructure Climate Vulnerability hotspots for the West Midlands (Utilises infrastructure-based indicators and datasets including housing, public buildings, utilities, transport and service points cross referenced against flooding data, to provide a vulnerability rating).
Higher resolution images can be found https://www.wmca.org.uk/media/d2pons0q/summary-of-climate-change-impacts-in-wmca-area.pdf
Current challenges around the supply and cost of energy present challenges for the transport network. We need to think about sustainable energy solutions in the region as the potential of power outages has highlighted a lack of contingency to operate highway assets dependent on power such as streetlighting, traffic signals, Variable Message Signs.
Highways assets will be maintained to a high standard through our Highway Maintenance Programme, including ensuring that street maintenance and cleaning considers the needs of more vulnerable road users, such as people walking, wheeling, scooting or cycling. TfWM will develop the Central Asset Repository for the Key Route Network in collaboration with Local Authority partners to make best use of data to proactively maintain and improve the network. WMCA will monitor the delivery of the Highway Maintenance Programme for the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement.
- WMCA and local authorities will make use of the increasing amount of data available in relation to our assets, to make maintenance more efficient, pro-active and preventative wherever possible, rather than reactively responding to faults.
- We will develop the Central Asset Repository for the Key Route Network in collaboration with Local Authority partners.
- The region’s maintenance approaches will take full account of ensuring that the environment is protected including the need to reduce transports impacts and ensure that the network is resilient to and adapts to inevitable climate change.
- WMCA and local authorities will use less carbon-intensive and more climate resilient materials in road construction and maintenance.