West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has joined forces with Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and the Midlands Engine, to urge the Chancellor to support the “nationally-critical” Midlands Rail Hub infrastructure project. In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the pair highlight the importance of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to unite the Midlands region and improve public transport links between the East and West Midlands. They also highlight the need for the project to prominently feature in Government’s upcoming Integrated Rail Plan, which will outline national rail investment plans for the next twenty years.
Midlands Engine Rail’s flagship scheme, the Midlands Rail Hub includes a catalogue of improvements to improve journey times and increase capacity on the railway, through track and platform upgrades, new signalling systems and the construction of two new ‘chords’ running into Birmingham Moor Street Station. Once complete, the Midlands Rail Hub, set to cost in the region of £2bn, will create space for 20 extra passenger trains every hour in to and out of central Birmingham, enhancing east-west links across the region to destinations including Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Hereford and Worcester. It will also enable the reintroduction of direct rail services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham.
Passenger benefits aside, the scheme will allow more freight trains to run on the network, with the capacity to move over one million lorries’ worth of cargo from the roads to our railways each year. Transporting goods in this way produces 78% less CO2.
The first elements of the Midlands Rail Hub, including reopening a platform at Birmingham Snow Hill station to allow more trains to stop there, could be delivered by 2024, subject to funding.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We know that infrastructure investment will be essential in lifting the region’s economy following the COVID-19 pandemic – both in HS2 and the Midlands Rail Hub. Pushing ahead with this project really is a no-brainer – it will reduce emissions, get more people using public transport and support the creation of new jobs. I’m also excited what it could do for local services – allowing us to run more trains along the Camp Hill line to Moseley, Kings Heath and Stirchley once we reopen these stations to passengers. Both the Prime Minister and Chancellor have spoken about the need to accelerate transport projects to deliver benefits sooner – the Midlands Rail Hub is a perfect candidate for Project Speed. The benefits are numerous, the sums stack up, now we need to get cracking.”
Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and the Midlands Engine, said: “There are huge opportunities up for grabs for the Midlands region, but we cannot exploit them if we are not united. These plans will bring the East and West Midlands closer together, and empower travellers to take faster, more reliable public transport connections. We must welcome passengers back onto our rail network in greater numbers than ever before once lockdown restrictions are lifted – an investment in the Midlands Rail Hub will demonstrate that the Chancellor is serious about levelling up the UK regions, decarbonising our transport network and tackling climate change.”