Could west­ern or­bital Ma­jor re­port pro­poses Black Coun­try M-way by­pass –

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Govern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

ANEW ‘west­ern or­bital’ mo­tor­way to by­pass the Black Coun­try and ease con­tin­u­ous jams is among con­ges­tion-bust­ing plans for the re­gion’s road net­work.

The 20-year vi­sion for the mo­tor­way net­work around Birm­ing­ham also in­cludes more park and ride schemes and better in­for­ma­tion to help driv­ers avoid jams.

The west­ern or­bital link would stretch from the M5 near Broms­grove to the M6 and M54 junc­tion north of Wolver­hamp­ton.

It would cut traf­fic trav­el­ling through the Black Coun­try by about 20 per cent, eas­ing both con­ges­tion and cut­ting pol­lu­tion.

Al­though not the first time such a route has been proposed, its in­clu­sion in the new Mo­tor­way Hub Strat­egy from re­gional trans­port group Mid­lands Con­nect means it is now firmly on the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

The strat­egy says the West­ern Or­bital would also en­cour­age the devel­op­ment of 45,000 badly-needed homes in the Black Coun­try.

But it has been crit­i­cised as a ‘di­nosaur scheme’ by Birm­ing­ham Friends of the Earth.

They ar­gue that build­ing more roads on green belt land is not the an­swer to the re­gion’s trans­port prob­lems and that money would be better spent on public trans­port al­ter­na­tives.

Mid­lands Con­nect wants to carry out a de­tailed study into the proposed route and, if the busi­ness case stacks up, seek Govern­ment fund­ing and back­ing.

The strat­egy says that the pro­pos­als would im­prove the re­li­a­bil­ity of jour­neys by road and boost the re­gion’s econ­omy and help de­liver 50,000 new jobs.

A fur­ther ma­jor pro­posal is to up­grade the A46 cor­ri­dor route from Tewkes­bury to Le­ices­ter and be­yond into an ex­press­way of two or three lanes, to speed up jour­ney times and di­vert traf­fic away from the M42.

In a short-term plan, trans­port bosses want im­proved signs di­rect­ing driv­ers towards the M6 Toll road dur­ing peak times or dur­ing ma­jor ac­ci­dents on the M6.

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.

“The Mid­lands is at the cen­tre of the UK and when it comes to a stand­still, the whole coun­try suf­fers.

“We have al­ways said that what­ever ben­e­fits our re­gional econ­omy will ben­e­fit the wider UK econ­omy too. As a re­gion, we need to bring to­gether the East and West Mid-

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