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Congestion drives PS100m parcel sorting hub away from city.


Aparcel delivery company has highlighted appalling traffic in the West Midlands as a 'key factor' in its decision locate a new PS100 million sorting hub elsewhere.

Smethwick-based DPD, which already has three sites in the West Midlands, plans to create up to 1,500 UK jobs as part of a PS175 million expansion plan.

The new base in the East Midlands would use the 'backbone of the East of England', the A1 and M1, while the West Midlands side uses the M5 and M6.

The decision comes as business leaders have hit out over a six-week shutdown of the busy Queensway tunnels in Birmingham city centre next summer.

With congestion costing the region's businesses an estimated PS2.3 billion a year, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has said that traders will be badly affected by the shutdown.

Parcel delivery company DPD's executive director of central operations Charlie Shiels told the Post the West Midlands 'box' - the M6, M5 and M42 - is very congested.

"The next large tranche of investment was about many things and one of those was risk management," he said.

"Congestion was a factor. And we are better served by spreading our risk.

"I'm becoming increasingly frustrated about it and I have a meeting with senior Highways Agency management.

"At night we're going in, we're crossing our fingers and hope things will go well."

The location of the new sorting hub, which will be the company's fourth, has yet to be decided but DPD is looking at sites near Rugby and Leicester.

As well as the new hub in the East Midlands, DPD will spend a further PS12 million building 10 new depots over the next 15 months as it looks to meet growing demand for its service from online retailers.

The business, which is a subsidiary of French-owned La Poste, said it has clinched PS70 million of new business as a result of its Predict service, which uses GPS technology to provide customers with a one-hour delivery window.

The announcement comes after Royal Mail said it would create some 1,000 jobs over four years as part of a PS75 million investment in its express parcels business.

DPD said 500 of the jobs would be created next year.

It will also spend PS20 million upgrading its existing network of 40 locations and invest in new technology for drivers, as well as in security and its IT infrastructure.

Birmingham City Council has approved the closure of the A38 Queensway tunnels for repairs and new lighting, planned to coincide with school holidays, when the council has said traffic flows are 30 per cent lighter.

It said working on the tunnels during the day, rather than the night, was cheaper and the closure scheme was part of a package of measures aimed at saving about PS14 million from the highways budget.

The 40-year-old tunnels are the main route for the A38 under Birmingham.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce already estimates congestion in the city costs PS2.3 billion per year in fuel and wasted time - and said the new shutdown will drastically add to this.

John Lamb, spokesman for Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: "It's going to cause a lot of trouble for people trying to get in and out of the city and for goods to get in and out of the city.

"And with the rail problems we're having at the moment it's not going to help. It's clearly essential work and shows the frailties of Birmingham's road system. It's going to add to the problems."

The council said alternative routes would be promoted during the refurbishment, which will begin in July, and signs would be put in place to divert traffic via St Chad's Circus, Great Charles Street, Paradise Circus and Suffolk Street.

Cabinet member for development Coun Tahir Ali (Lab Nechells) said: "Traffic flows are down 20 to 30 per cent during the school holidays. The tunnels are mainly used by through traffic anyway, so we can encourage them to use other routes."

Transport handouts bypass region: Page 20, Letters: Page 26


John Lamb, of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Congestion on the A38 ring road near the Queensway tunnels which are to be closed for six weeks next year
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 15, 2012
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