The need for the UK to forge a new place for itself in a post-Brexit world and strengthen both domestic and global market access has seen the re-emergence of the corridor approach to economic development.
While corridor-led schemes are prevailing in places like Singapore, India, China and Pakistan, ground-breaking strategic proposals are also being proposed here in the UK. They take encouragement from the continued success of the M4 corridor’s so-called ‘Silicon Alley’, the largest tech cluster in the UK outside London, turning over £10bn each year.
Plans for a London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor, a Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford trade highway and Midlands Connect’s own calls for urgent, co-ordinated development along the length of the A46 are all emblematic of this trend.
By linking economic centres to each other and the rest of the UK, corridor development schemes widen access to labour pools, boost business productivity and increase the reliability and resilience of the network.
Creating an additional tier of roads between the Strategic Road Network, managed and maintained by Highways England, and local authority roads, Midlands Connect and other sub-national transport bodies have called for greater influence over where this pot of money is spent, to ensure it draws on regional expertise and prioritises schemes with the highest potential for economic growth.
However, MRN funding pales into relative insignificance when compared to the second Road Investment Strategy pot – RIS2 – which is worth over £25bn. Where, when and how this will be allocated to both the delivery of regional priorities and the development of new projects, could be the most important event of the near future
It is increasingly clear that we cannot address the mobility challenges of the future with construction alone. The greater availability of data provides us with new opportunities to better use our existing infrastructure and build networks fit for the future.
EVs aside, expect to see an acceleration in the testing of connected and autonomous vehicles and HGV platooning as 5G connectivity and the internet of things continue to revolutionise the way we travel.
As well as incorporating traditional charging points infrastructure into transport plans, we will also see further consideration of more radical technologies such as electric charging lanes, which are already in use in Sweden.