Copyright 2003 Midland Independent Newspapers plc
October 20, 2003, Monday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 439 words
HEADLINE: BUSINESS FEARS OVER DOWNGRADE OF KEY LINK
BYLINE: CAMPBELL DOCHERTY
BODY: Government plans to downgrade a major road link between Birmingham and the Black Country will result in chaos for the business community, it has been claimed.
The Highways Agency is preparing to ‘de-trunk’ the A4123 -the main arterial road between Birmingham and Wolverhampton -transferring control of the road from them to four individual local authorities on its route.
But business leaders allege that consultation over the plan has been kept quiet and big companies that use the road are only now becoming aware of the implications of the decision.
Last week, Philippa Holland, director of the Government Office for the West Midlands, told companies which had lodged objections to the plan that there would not be a public inquiry.
In her letter, she wrote: ‘The Secretaries of State have given careful consideration to whether, in the light of the remaining objections and the material available, an inquiry is necessary.
‘They are satisfied that the nature and weight of the objections remaining are such that an inquiry would be unlikely to produce and significant new information relevant to their decision.’
Jerry Blackett, policy director at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: ‘This move could bring chaos to the West Midlands. Each local authority would be able to do as it wishes with its own section.
‘So we could have a situation where traffic calming measures, traffic lights and other obstacles are introduced into an area which should be kept as free flowing as possible for the movement of people and goods.
‘The road provides a vital link between the two areas and any changes aimed at cutting use of the A4123 would present real problems for manufacturers moving goods in and out of the region.’
Chris Kelly, chairman of lorry supplier Keltruck of West Bromwich and a member of the Business Transport Group, said: ‘We simply cannot allow this major arterial road to come under local authority control, even though traffic has already been slowed unnecessarily.
‘There needs to be a concerted effort to raise awareness of this issue, which will have serious economic consequences for the region.
‘The consultation process was a sham, they did not talk to anybody.
‘It is a major arterial route and my fear is the local authority having control of the road will just see it get slower and slower. This seems to be the politically correct agenda of local authorities here.’
Debbie Walsh, head of policy at the BCI, said: ‘The consultation process appears to have been kept very low key, which is disturbing when the issue involves such a vital link.’
Visit keltruck.com/roads for more information.