The transport body for the Midlands is piling pressure on the chancellor Philip Hammond to commit to an “ambitious but deliverable” Midlands Rail Hub which could inject £649m into the economy.
Midlands Connect is seeking a long-term investment commitment by the government ahead of the Conservative Party conference in the city this week. The project is the body’s flagship scheme to introduce faster, more frequent rail services for passengers and freight, bringing cities and towns in the East and West Midlands closer together.
Those behind the calls want to see an extra 24 passenger trains per hour delivered, benefiting cities including Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Hereford and Worcester. A commitment would also significantly improve journey times and introduce 36 new freight paths with the potential to shift the equivalent of 4,320 lorries from road to rail every day.
Midlands Connect is also calling for additional funding to develop the business case for reinstating direct rail services between Coventry and Leicester, with plans to introduce 2 trains per hour and a journey time of less than 40 minutes.
Furthermore, as the region prepares to welcome visitors from around the world in 2022 for the Commonwealth Games, Midland leaders want to see the implementation of a smart ticketing scheme just like in London whereby commuters can use contactless bank cards, smartcards or smart devices linked to a single bank account.
Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses believes only a long-term commitment to increased transport and infrastructure investment can help the region achieve its potential.
We’re proposing an ambitious yet deliverable set of asks of the government that improves the lives of all Midlanders and benefits the national economy, too. There is region-wide support for improving historically slow and infrequent services between the East and West Midlands. That is why we’re asking for a commitment to delivering it that allows us to work with regional and national bodies to get the work started as soon as possible. Our proposals send a clear message to government that Midlands projects can benefit the nation, but we also want to make sure that national projects have the maximum benefit for the Midlands.”
On top of the rail hub, transport leaders in the Midlands are also funding requests for a Major Road Network Development Fund, giving the region more of a say over where up to £1bn a year of new government funding for road improvements is spent and a wider Back the Midlands Development Fund, to make sure regional evidence informs all nationally funded transport schemes.