Birmingham dominates the West Midlands in a way not replicated in any other of the UK's regions. Almost a quarter of the West Midlands' jobs are located in the city and it acts as the hub for transport networks. The national road network also converges on Birmingham, to the extent that the West Midlands boasts more motorways than any other region. And its two airports, at Birmingham and Coventry, fly to 65 and 17 destinations respectively.
Integral to the city and region's economic revival are redevelopment and infrastructure projects and excellent modern transport facilities. City Council assistant director for planning development David Bull says: 'We have had a 40% increase in rail use over the past 10 years and Birmingham New Street station is bursting at the seams.' Ongoing generation work is achieving a much needed revamp of the city centre. The city is touting for business, and its efforts are bearing fruit. The success of the new Bullring, featuring the eye-catching, aluminium disc-clad Selfridges, has made Birmingham the second busiest shopping destination in the country and the third most popular in Europe.
'The centre is a lovely place to be now and the city council is working hard to remove the concrete collar of the ring road, ' notes ICE regional manager Steve Feeley. 'It was separating the city into nice and not so nice bits but the regeneration is starting to spread. Some extremely good projects are coming up.' At Bilston Urban Village, south of Wolverhampton, 38ha of former industrial land will be transformed into a new community with 1,500 new homes, a 8ha park and a host of leisure and employment opportunities.
Site investigation work has started.
Feeley also praises the M6 toll road in the region's north. 'To thread a six lane motorway through one of the most congested areas of the country with rail bridges, significant pylon arrangements and a river is outstanding. What is a shame is that the pricing structure with it, which means it's not being used to its full capacity.' M6 toll demonstrates transport's potential to stimulate regeneration, he says, citing the forming mining community of Hednesford, where business parks are beginning to appear close to the road.