ORR board visit to Birmingham
29 June 2017
By Stephen Glaister, Chair, ORR.
Last month as part of our regular programme of industry listening the ORR Board were in Birmingham, meeting a number of stakeholders in the key transport hub of the West Midlands.
We met a range of transport planners, operators and others with interest in our rail and our roads work.
The West Midlands Combined Authority was created last year and the election for Mayor had been held just before our visit. We were struck by the sense of optimism and enthusiasm for what the new governance arrangements might be able to achieve for transport and the economy in the city region.
We heard a range of ways in which people felt ORR could support the integrated transport planning ambitions for the West Midlands. We were also impressed with the partnership approach to working which clearly exists among differing people and institutions.
We took the opportunity to get out and about, to understand first hand more about some of the practical issues facing our industry. We took in trips on the Midlands Metro tram system, and learnt about the project to create ‘battery running’ in central Birmingham, avoiding wires through environmentally sensitive areas where extensions to the system are being built.
We visited work on repairs to the Gravelly Hill Interchange (aka Spaghetti Junction on the M6) and other members of the Board visited the Freightliner depot in Birmingham. At Spaghetti Junction we were impressed by the volume of detailed work being carried out below the road deck to repair and maintain the supporting structures at every one of those concrete joints you drive over along the elevated motorways in the area.
Over the last 12 months, the ORR board has also met with stakeholders in Cardiff and Scotland and we are planning on visiting Cambridgeshire later in the year. These visits are a good opportunity for us to listen to some of the practical issues facing rail and road users, now and in the future.
Hearing what matters to both those in the transport industry and using the various systems is important as we prepare our advice and guidance to Government on future funding and priorities for rail and the strategic road network.