Midlands Connect: HS2 will benefit region…
The partnership, which has been charged with developing a region-wide transport strategy to unlock growth and jobs and power the Midlands Engine, has given its backing to Network Rail’s West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study.
The study outlines the capacity challenges and potential short-term (to 2024) and longer-term (to 2043) options to improve future passenger and freight services across the region.
One option proposed is a ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ to address the rail network’s main bottleneck in central Birmingham to improve rail links across the wider Midlands.
It also promotes improved rail links to the East Midlands economic centres of Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.
The study sets out options for infrastructure improvements between Coventry and Leamington Spa to enable improved direct national rail access to Birmingham Airport and Coventry from cities such as Oxford, Reading, Derby, Leeds, York and Newcastle.
Midland Connect programme director, Maria Machancoses, said she was pleased to see the study acknowledged Midland Connect’s work with Network Rail in targeting stronger transport infrastructure to make sure the region was ready for the arrival of HS2.
“As the heart of the UK economy, our links with the rest of the country and internationally are vital,” she said.
“That’s why we particularly welcome the study’s Midlands Rail Hub concept which we view as the first piece in the jigsaw of increasing rail capacity across the Midlands.
“We believe development of this important programme should start as soon as possible.”
She said the proposals within the Route Study were consistent with the Midlands Connect agenda for supporting economic growth across the region and its role at the heart of the UK economy.
She said the report also recognised the Midlands Connect agenda for improving rail links between the East and West Midlands, particularly Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
“I am pleased the route study recognises this and provides options to enable improved direct rail access to Birmingham Airport from the Thames Valley, Yorkshire and the North East.
“We will continue to work very closely with Network Rail and government to understand how this can be driven forwards.”
Midlands Connect is a collaboration of 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships, Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 Ltd, 28 local authorities and the business community. The Department for Transport is an associate member.
Operating as the transport component powering the Midlands Engine – the partnership will publish its strategy in March 2017.
It will set out the infrastructure and other measures needed to speed up journeys in the Midlands, unlocking £1bn a year of extra economic growth and 300,000 new jobs.
The Midlands exports £50 billion of products a year – 16 per cent of the UK total – and has a strong mix of high-growth industries, including logistics, advanced manufacturing and professional services. It is also the nation’s manufacturing heartland – home to a third of all UK jobs in that sector
It is for these reasons that the Government has identified the Midlands as the UK’s ‘Engine for Growth’ and for being pivotal in the rebalancing of the UK economy as a whole.
This vision of a ‘Midlands Engine’ sets out a vibrant and growing economy focussed on productivity – one that can deliver more jobs, exports and an improved quality of life. It is driven by getting the most out of the Midlands’ workforce, research and transport.
The long-term strategic transport plan being developed by Midlands Connect aims to not only unlock growth and jobs but also tackle the significant transport challenges that are already impacting on the competitiveness of both the Midlands and the wider UK economy.
Research carried out by Midlands Connect has shown that cutting journey times on key Midland routes by 20 per cent over the next 20 years could yield local business savings of £460 million a year, increase annual economic activity in the region by £1.1 billion, create 306,000 additional jobs and benefit the labour market by £33 million a year.
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