Transport bosses commit to rail infrastructure schemes across the Midlands
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Infrastructure is key to the region and making sure the Midlands is not forgotten in the levelling-up agenda was critical for transport investment.
That was according to Dave Penney, Central Route Director at Network Rail, who was speaking at TheBusinessDesk’s Invest Midlands conference this week.
In a session exploring the transport vison for connecting the Midlands, Penney said the levelling-up agenda was being geared towards the North and therefore, the Midlands region needed to make sure it was fighting for HS2 and Midlands Connect for better East-West connectivity.
“Traditionally rail investments have been in London and then levelling up is looking towards the north, so we need to fight for investment so that, actually, we can we fulfill the desires of the economic and industrial planning,” he said.
“It’s a really good time to be in rail, but we need to harness the opportunity.”
Clare James, managing director at East Midlands Airport spoke of the opportunities for a more sustainable transport infrastructure.
“It’s about capitalising and really investing in that existing infrastructure to make sure that the network is fit for purpose,” she said.
“We’ve got a big logistics operation here, 90% of which is by road, so it’s about looking to the future, it’s about addressing the sustainability piece, and making sure that we’ve got the appropriate infrastructure to address those key issues around sustainability and climate change.”
She also called for a ‘joined-up’ strategy to better serve customers.
James said: “A lot of our first flights are early in the morning and currently passengers can’t get here by train. So, we need to look to the future and have a joined up strategy that makes the most of our regional assets – and we’ve got some great assets as a region – and look at how we can serve not only our passengers but the employment base too.”
Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, said Covid had reinforced the need and importance of East-West connectivity and HS2, which she pointed was currently being built in the Midlands.
She also said Midlands Connect had completed a strategic business case for a direct link between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham.
“We are busy trying to progress with the schemes that are still important for the Midlands, both for passengers and freight.
“We want them delivered in the next 10 to 15 years and at the same time we are making sure that COVID has not had a knock-on effect on business cases and we are working closely with the government to make sure that there is an active correlation of what the real benefits are for the UK economy.”
The panel session was chaired by Jeff Counsel, managing director for bus company trentbarton.