The next PM is urged to back £2bn plans to transform railway in the Midlands and “supercharge” the region’s economy.
Transport group Midlands Connect wants the Midlands Rail Hub plans for phased improvements from 2024. The group estimates it could deliver an annual economic benefit of up to £649 million by 2037.
The proposals have submitted to the Department of Transport. This is in partnership with Network Rail and 47 partner organisations. Partners include local authorities, business groups, and Birmingham and East Midlands airports.
The Midlands Rail Hub plans include 15 pieces of new and improved infrastructure in the region. This will allow direct services between Coventry and Leicester.
Journey times from Birmingham to Nottingham will cut from 72 to 59 minutes. The direct Leicester-Coventry route will take 38 minutes. This compares to 57 minutes on current services via Nuneaton.
Meanwhile, journey times between Nottingham and Coventry will slash from 99 to 63 minutes.
‘Must happen alongside HS2’
The next PM will be either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. Both are urged to back the £2bn railway plans as continue to battle to succeed Theresa May.
Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect, said: “The Midlands Rail Hub is a cost-effective, evidence-led plan to upgrade our Victorian infrastructure to meet the demands of the future.
“These proposals captures the enormous economic potential of the Midlands, estimating 320,000 new jobs by 2030. This is mainly in professional services firms who depend on good rail connectivity to attract skilled workers.
“This investment must happen alongside delivering HS2 in its entirety, from the West Midlands to the East Midlands and on to the north of England.”
This comes after HS2 revealed images showing designs of its trains for the first time earlier this month.
“The next PM of this country must not ignore the Midlands, the 10 million people who live here, or our £220 billion annual contribution to the UK economy.
“Now is the time for the Government to prove to the Midlands it’s listening to us.”
The West Midlands’ elected mayor, Andy Street, said: “Rail has been a huge part of the Midlands’ success story. And we need this kind of investment if our network is to keep growing and supporting our economy.
“At around £2 billion, the Midlands Rail Hub is genuinely a bargain when you consider some of the projects that have already happened in London. The Secretary of State for Transport must persuade the Treasury to support this project to boost the region’s connectivity. And with it, the region’s economy.”
Midlands rail usage on the rise
In the last two years, rail usage in the Midlands has grown faster than anywhere else in the UK. Growth in the last decade is 121% in the West Midlands. In the East Midlands, it is 37%.
Following the submission of the Midlands Rail Hub’s outline business case to the DfT, Midlands Connect request £25 million in funding to draft plans for specific scheme development and sequencing, a full overview of its benefits, and project designs.
A DfT spokesman said: “We are delighted to support Midlands Connect with £5 million of funding to drive forward their proposals for the Midlands Rail Hub.
We look forward to receiving these proposals and working together to develop the business case, focusing on opening up new opportunities for businesses, jobs and housing across the Midlands Engine.”
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