A good transport network is important in sustaining economic success in modern economies: the transport system links people to jobs; delivers products to markets; underpins supply chains and logistics networks; and is the lifeblood of domestic and international trade.
The Eddington Report
Demand on our booming commuter rail networks is forecast to increase still further with growth expected to be more in line with high, rather than low, growth scenarios – our networks are already struggling to cope - we need extra rail capacity to keep our city economies moving.
Home to over 11 million people, our city regions generate almost 20 per cent of England’s wealth. Birmingham and Manchester rank among Europe’s top 20 cities for business and, together with Leeds, are in the top 20 for internal and external transport links (Cushman and Wakefield European Cities Monitor 2011).
An effective transport network is key to the success of these big city economies. Transport gives people access to goods, services and jobs, and it gives business access to a labour force and to markets. Modern and efficient commuter rail networks can ensure that people can access the employment, retail and other opportunities that city centres offer. Rail can also give cities the wider connectivity they need. Modern trams and bus networks (aided by bus priority measures) can help maximise the movement of people on congested urban routes.
Time and time again the research carried out in this area suggests that investing in transport in congested urban areas is one of the best value forms of transport investment there is. This is in part because in larger urban areas an effective public transport network can also promote ‘agglomeration effects’, where additional economic efficiencies are gained when particular sectors and activities locate close to one another (such as city centre business clusters). Some research has suggested that these agglomeration effects represent an additional 40% benefit from transport investment over and above conventional estimates of the benefits that transport schemes can bring.
Our cities have seen – and continue to see – significant investment in their transport networks. However, in general investment levels lag below both London and our cities’ counterparts in Europe. Under-investment manifests itself in rail networks that struggle to cope with commuter demand as well as giving slow journey times between cities. It can also be seen in the relatively small numbers of tram and light rail systems.
If our cities are to generate more employment and more business activity then ways need to be found to ensure that they have the transport systems they need to sustain and underpin that growth. This means a combination of getting their fair share of national transport investment as well as finding new ways to raise more transport funding from the private sector and from within the city region itself.