Over 400 extra trains could serve Birmingham every day under Midlands Engine Rail, a £3.5 billion improvement programme to transform the region’s rail network, launched today by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect.
Under the plans, Birmingham will enjoy more frequent trains to and from a number of destinations including Leicester, Shrewsbury, Derby, Wolverhampton and Telford, as well as a new direct conventional-compatible HS2 service to Nottingham via the East Midlands Hub at Toton, which would cut journey times from 85 to just 33 minutes.
Made up of seven rail projects spanning the East and West Midlands, Midlands Engine Rail is strategically-important in supercharging the Midlands economy and is designed to drive sustainability, productivity and social mobility across the whole region. It includes and builds on the flagship Midlands Rail Hub scheme; aimed at boosting east-west connectivity, that was submitted to government in June 2019.
Designed to be delivered in stages from 2022 to the completion of HS2 Phase Two, Midlands Engine Rail will provide a much-needed capacity boost for national, local and regional rail services, creating space for 736 more passenger trains on the network each day – 416 of these services would run in to and out of central Birmingham. Over the past two years, rail passenger numbers have risen faster in the Midlands than anywhere else in the UK.
Birmingham is one of up to 60 locations that could benefit from improved services, including Leicester, Coventry, Nottingham, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Worcester and Wolverhampton.
Due to the Midlands’ central position at the heart of the UK transport network, the programme is also nationally-significant, driving benefits as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle, Kettering and Sheffield.
Midlands Engine Rail is fully integrated with HS2 and includes plans for two new conventional-compatible services that will directly link Nottingham and Leicester city centres to the new high speed network.
Improvements will increase the speed and frequency of existing services as well as introducing new direct services. It is also designed to reduce carbon emissions and encourage both passengers and freight off the roads and onto the railways.
Civic and business leaders are now calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to back Midlands Engine Rail, fund the next stage of its development (£45.5 million over the next three years), and to display the same enthusiasm for infrastructure investment in the Midlands as he has in the North.
Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine said:
In the Midlands, more people are travelling on the railways than ever before. We now need investment from Government to allow our people, businesses and infrastructure to reach their full potential, and to drive a further boost in passenger numbers. Midlands Engine Rail is essential in creating a more sustainable, productive and mobile Midlands. Whether they live in Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Birmingham or Leicester, our communities deserve the opportunity to make greener choices, to access a world-class education and to reach the widest possible variety of career opportunities. We must create a transport network that helps our businesses to grow, not holds them back. My message to the Prime Minister is clear; it’s time you made a long-overdue commitment to the future of our rail network. Ten million Midlanders are counting on you; invest in their futures, turn our vision into reality, back Midlands Engine Rail.”
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:
The West Midlands is undergoing a £4 billion transport revolution, with rail at its core. The better connected our region is through improved rail services then the more chance we have of sustaining our economic growth – which is higher than any region outside of London. We are doing what we can to improve our rail offering, with plans to open up both the Camp Hill line in South Birmingham and the Walsall to Wolverhampton line in the Black Country well underway. However there is still plenty more to be done, particularly around capacity, and I look forward to working with both the Government and Midlands Connect on their Midlands Engine Rail plans to see how we can further improve rail services and connectivity in the West Midlands.”
Robert Nisbet, director of nations & regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail companies, said:
Millions of train journeys are made in the Midlands every week and rail companies are working together to improve services, with new and refurbished trains being introduced to run more services. Further investment as part of Midlands Engine Rail will improve journeys for passengers between towns and cities across the region and power economic growth by unlocking new business opportunities.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information please contact:
Sophie Zumbe: PR & Communications Officer, Midlands Connect – 0121 214 7219/ 07913 343601
James Bovill: Media Lead, Midlands Connect – 0121 214 7944 / 07384 249164
ABOUT MIDLANDS ENGINE RAIL
Benefits for Birmingham
New direct services means that there is currently no frequent, direct train between the two destinations i.e. two or fewer direct services per day.
Full benefits will be confirmed and refined as the projects move to the next stages of research and development