Midlands rail upgrade costing £2 billion proposed to the government
Plans for improvements to the railway network linking East and West Midlands have been put to the government with an expected cost of roughly £2 billion.
The proposal, headed by Midlands Connect, would see the return of direct train services between Coventry in West Midlands and East Midlands' cities of Leicester and Nottingham.
No direct services have run between the cities for 15 years and, according to Midlands Connect, the new plans would see a significant reduction of travel time across the region.
Furthermore, a 37 per cent rise in rail usage in the East Midlands in the last decade and the inability for the local network to cope with demand have been identified as existing issues.
Upgrades would see the existing infrequent services between the East and West Midlands replaced with a further 24 passenger trains per hour, which is predicted to equate to six million extra rail journeys taken a year.
Extra services running between Derby and Leicester in the East Midlands and Birmingham in the West Midlands would also be introduced, alongside additional trains running between Birmingham and Nottingham.
The overhaul in services is forecast to generate an extra £649 million per year by 2037.
Midlands Connect, responsible for the region’s long-term transport plans, is in partnership with Network Rail and supported by a further 47 partner entities in its proposal. One backer is volunteer-led campaign organisation Rail Future.
Colin Major, the organisation’s secretary, said of the proposals: “I think, in concept, it is good news, of course we want more people to use rail; it is greener, more environmentally friendly.
We have been pressing for the Coventry-Leicester connection to be reinstated because, we believe, there is demand for the service”.
The necessary works would be completed intermittently between 2024 and 2033, should the plans be approved.
Within the proposal, a maximum of £500 million will be set aside for improving infrastructure, including renovations to the tracks around Leicester and en route to Birmingham, as well as covering renovations in the Nottingham area.
The £500 million is also proposed to cover the construction of a new rail line either running beneath the West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton (West Midlands) or alternatively upon a flyover above it, which will accommodate the new direct services running east and westbound.
Sir John Peace, Midlands Connect chairman, 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 to be generated by 2030, mainly in professional services firms who depend on good rail connectivity to attract skilled workers”.