Good morning everyone.
I’m delighted to be here this morning (13 November 2014) for the launch of Birmingham Connected.
And I’d like to thank Sir Albert [Sir Albert Bore] and his team for inviting me today.
Last year the Economist magazine ran an article headlined ‘Birmingham – How to Kill a City’.
It explained how post-war politicians and planners moved huge numbers of residents from the city centre to surburban estates.
While building elevated roads to get people in and out of employment zones.
The result, it said, was a doughnut city.
A small commercial core, cut off from the rest of the metropolis by ringroads and a vast belt of derelict old properties.
Beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings replaced with concrete.
And communities torn apart.
According to the Economist, one of Britain’s most successful cities was transformed into one of its least successful.
But the article finished on a high note.
It said that the damage inflicted by post-war legislators has now been largely undone.
And that in recent years, Birmingham’s city centre has been transformed.
That transformation has been remarkable.
Last year there were more business start ups in Birmingham than in any other city outside London.
More than 16,000 of them.
And inward investment was up by more than half.
Exports from the West Midlands have grown by 30% in 2 years.
The region now has a trade surplus with China.
Much of it through high value, advanced industries.
Like car manufacturing, sciences and digital.
All this is very encouraging.
But growth isn’t something we can afford to take for granted.
Yes - the UK economy is the fastest growing in the developed world.
And yes, Birmingham is benefiting from the upturn.
But just like successful businesses.
Successful cities need constant nurturing and development if they are to sustain growth.
And in particular, they need a vision for transport.
To connect people with the jobs of the future.
To link new housing with services.
And to attract new investors to the region.
And that’s what Birmingham Connected is all about.
Binding this great city together.
A £1.2 billion public transport network that provides faster travel than that by car.
Green travel districts, giving people more choice about how they travel.
And reducing congestion, pollution and road accidents.
Better rail and road links.
And making sure the whole region is connected to HS2.
The objective is to create a ‘go anywhere’ transport system so people can travel easily and quickly.
Into the city, within the city and out of the city.
Reversing the post-war process that disconnected communities.
And providing the transport links and capacity that Birmingham needs to continue its renaissance.
Government transport investment
Now – I’ll come back to Birmingham Connected in a minute.
But first, I want to talk about what we’re doing in government to support you.
First of all we are building a strong economy.
A foundation for balanced and sustainable growth in the years ahead.
And we’ve put transport at the heart of our strategy for the economy.
Because we believe it’s an engine for growth and jobs.
We’ve come a long way in 4 and a half years.
The biggest rail modernisation plan for more than a century.
And a step change in roads and highways investment.
Including the £15 billion roads programme announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.
This record investment is supporting projects like Birmingham New Street Station.
The Midland Mainline upgrade.
A wide range of road pinchpoint schemes across the Midlands.
And the smart motorways programme on the M6, M40 and M42.
In just 3 years’ time, subject to Royal Assent, we will begin building HS2.
Placing Birmingham at the core of the network.
Transforming connections with the north.
The focus is now moving to cities with HS2 stations.
So they can become major hubs for growth and regeneration.
Here in Birmingham, the local enterprise partnership has started developing a growth strategy for Curzon Street and Solihull stations.
With £2.5 million of government money to speed up the work.
Birmingham has also launched the Curzon Urban Regeneration Company.
To lead a programme that will ultimately create 14,000 jobs, 2,000 new homes, and contribute up to £1.3 billion a year to the local economy.
And we’ve just announced that the new High Speed College will be based here in Birmingham.
To train the rail engineers of the future.
It’s also fantastic to see that authorities here are taking forward our shared vision to improve local urban transport.
The days when officials in Whitehall made detailed transport decisions affecting other cities are over.
We’ve moved away from prescriptive, top-down government.
Instead, we want cities to translate funding into their own innovative local transport schemes.
And we’re doing that through programmes like the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Which with local contributions has generated £1 billion of investment.
We’ve massively increased cycling investment.
Which I’m pleased to say is helping to turn Birmingham into one of Britain’s leading cycling cities.
Local partnerships are key to this process.
I’ve mentioned the Curzon Urban Regeneration Company.
But there’s also the partnership that has developed the ‘Swift’ smart ticketing network.
Bringing together 30 public transport operators and authorities across the region.
And there’s Midlands Connect.
A partnership between Midlands local enterprise partnerships and local authorities working with Network Rail, the Highways Agency and businesses.
Midlands Connect will help establish what the region needs from transport to fulfil its economic potential.
To provide a framework for investment in the years and decades ahead.
Birmingham Connected and conclusion
And it’s this same partnership approach and local vision that is driving forward the Birmingham Mobility Action Plan.
Which almost a year after the consultation started.
Has culminated today in the launch of ‘Birmingham Connected’.
It doesn’t attempt to sidestep the challenges that Birmingham still faces.
Increasing employment and the affect that has on demand for travel.
And the impact of transport on the environment.
Quite rightly, it concludes that we have to change the way we think about urban journeys.
To have less reliance on cars.
More emphasis on cycling, walking and public transport.
To make transport more accessible to every community and individual.
To implement smart ticketing across the network.
To reduce harmful emissions.
But also to improve people’s health.
And make journeys more reliable.
Yes it’s ambitious.
But it’s only by being ambitious that Birmingham will get the transport system it needs to thrive in the 21st century.
Just as transport was part of the problem in the past.
So it can be part of the solution in the future.
Connecting the many parts that constitute a big city.
And doing it in a way that’s truly sustainable.
So I congratulate Sir Albert and his team on today’s launch.
And I look forward to working with you to make your vision a reality.