£2bn plan to improve East-West rail links in the Midlands

A £2bn package of improvements to transform east-west connections including the reinstatement of the Coventry-Leicester-Nottingham service have been submitted to the government.

The Midlands Rail Hub, drawn up by Connect Midlands, outlines plans 15 separate new and improved pieces infrastructure.

The body, set up to promote connectivity across the Midlands, says the plans will create space for 24 extra passenger trains every hour on the regional network, reduce journey times, increasing rail journeys and help the regional the economy by bringing the East and West Midlands closer together.

The plans, which would be completed in phases between 2024 and 2033, have been submitted to the government by in partnership with Network Rail and with the backing of 47 partner organisations including West Midlands Combined Authority, local authorities, LEPs, chambers of commerce, HS2 and East Midlands Airport.

Connect Midlands says the plans include space for 24 extra passenger trains an hour, with an estimated six million more journeys per year; an estimated economic benefit of £649 million a year by 2037; and 600,000+ more people in the East Midlands will be brought within an hour of Birmingham and Coventry via public transport.

Lilian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South and chair of the Transport Select Committee, told TheBusinessDesk.com: “Our people and businesses are suffering from poor connectivity and it’s time that Government took action to bring the great economic centres of the Midlands closer together.

“The Midlands Rail Hub is a vehicle for change, it will change where we work, where we live and who we do business with, it will encourage us to make greener choices and allow the network to keep pace with growing demand.
“We must accelerate these plans to enable faster, more frequent journeys across our network and to make more space for freight trains that will transport goods UK- wide. Nottingham, Birmingham, Leicester, Derby, Coventry, Hereford, Worcester and beyond will all benefit from this ambitious yet pragmatic set of interventions.”

The plans outline direct services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham reinstated for the first time since 2004, with two trains per hour in each direction (passengers must currently change at Nuneaton); two extra trains per hour to and from Derby-Birmingham and Leicester-Birmingham; and one extra train per hour to and from Nottingham-Birmingham.

Journey time improvements are also outlined. Birmingham-Nottingham journey times would be reduced from72 to 59 minutes, the first time ever services would be brought under one hour; Leicester-Coventry, from 57 (indirect via Nuneaton) to 38 minutes (direct); and Nottingham-Coventry (via Leicester) from 99 to 63 minutes.

Sir John Peace, chair 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 capture the enormous economic potential of the Midlands, with 320,000 new jobs estimated by 2030, 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. The next Prime Minister 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.”

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