Joined up transport links key to economic growth

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Economic growth in Milton Keynes is at risk without a joined up transport strategy.

‘How local business can play a vital role in helping form and deliver a local transport strategy’ was the theme of a breakfast meeting of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership (MKBLP).

Brian Matthews, Milton Keynes Council’s Head of Transport, said travel demand was likely to rise by 60 per cent while capacity can only increase by 25 per cent.

That deficit has the potential to harm the quality of life, the environment and economic prosperity and growth unless alternative forms of transportation are identified. But managed well, the increased travel demand can mean significant social and economic benefit for the city.

He said Milton Keynes had welcomed the launch of electric buses with the trialling of low carbon transport systems, a ‘small vehicle demand response system’ and driverless pods.

“Milton Keynes is already a centre of excellence for electric vehicles (EVs) and collaborating with global manufacturers.”

Milton Keynes’ Local Transport Plan now recognises both the continuing role of the car and the increasing awareness of the needs of business to be able to deliver growth. It seeks to influence and challenge everyone to think differently about how they travel,” he added.

Involving business is key. A good example is in Tilbrook where parking space is at a premium. About 20 companies there, including Formula 1 team Red Bull, are being supported by transport consultants Smart Go through MK Council to devise travel plans for the area and reduce car journeys.

Travel plans could be of real value for business Brian commented, adding that Red Bull has given its staff travel plan high priority and at director level. Stephen Potter, Professor of Transport Strategy at The Open University, suggested not all companies give transport such high priority. “Very often travel plans are given to the facilities manager who delegates it to more junior staff and sometimes it even becomes a part-time activity.

“If you have got your travel plan as a low priority it isn’t actually going to deliver commercial benefits like enhancing staff recruitment and retention,” Professor Potter said.

A lively and constructive Q&A session followed the briefing, held at The Brasserie at MK College.

It touched on parking issues in Central Milton Keynes, how best to encourage cycling to work or to the rail station and the role of buses and taxis within the transport mix.

Transport is one of five key themes identified by MKBLP as fundamental to the success of Milton Keynes. The others include Smart Cities; Health and Wellbeing; the Knowledge-based Economy and International Sporting City.

Philip Smith, chairman of MKBLP, said Brian Matthews’ presentation had been received positively by members who were keen to add constructive comment.

“We can now see the prospects for the future and a clearer plan as to how we get there.

“ A joined-up transport proposition is a vital necessity for the city and we risk damaging economic growth without a plan which recognises the important role of the business community in its evolution and delivery,” he said.