Proposed rail upgrades would support £2bn economy boost with more trains and better HS2 links

Date posted: August 4, 2017
Two workers wearing fluorescent orange boiler-suits stand together looking at a tablet, in the background others work on the train rails

A major boost to the Midlands economy supported by more trains and better connections between towns, cities and with HS2 is predicted if proposed rail upgrades become a reality.

Midlands Connect predicts that the development of a new Midlands Rail Hub would result in a £2 billion economic surge over the next 10 to 30 years.

Network Rail’s West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study, published today (Friday 4 August), has identified a number of improvements which would enable the railway to continue to connect people to jobs and meet future demand for rail travel. This would encourage and support economic growth and maximise access to the new HS2 station at Curzon Street.

In the long term, the study also looks at improving access to London from the Chiltern main line by connecting the route with the new HS2, Crossrail and Great Western main line interchange at Old Oak Common. In the short term, there are plans for a programme of upgrades to stations on the existing route into London Marylebone by 2024 to accommodate longer trains with more seats for passengers.

Another key part of the study is the Midlands Rail Hub which would see a raft of improvements in the Birmingham area. These would allow up to 150 extra trains per day – providing an extra 85,000 seats across the Midlands – and improving connectivity between the East and West Midlands. The hub also provides extra capacity for freight trains to access key terminals in the region, removing lorries from the road network helping to reduce congestion.

An estimated 24 million extra annual passenger journeys are predicted in the Midlands area by 2023, meaning continued investment in the railway is needed to meet future demand.

Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, said:

“The rail industry has to be ready to meet future demand and ensure that we continue to support economic growth by better linking people with jobs and opportunities in the Midlands region and beyond.

“The impact of HS2 in Britain will be huge and it is vital the existing railway connects with it and the benefits it will deliver. Across the West Midlands and Chilterns, there is much to do to meet predicted demand – this study outlines what improvements we think are needed so that passengers have the railway they need and deserve.

“Our multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan is already delivering better services for passengers and boosting our economy, as highlighted by the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station and the connection of Oxford Parkway station to the Chiltern main line. The proposals in the West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study will help ensure this success continues long into the future.”

Maria Machancoses, Midlands Connect director said,

“The inclusion of so many of our own priorities in Network Rail’s Study confirms that Midlands Connect is the driving force behind positive change and transformational investment in rail and other transport infrastructure. Delivery of these improvements will bring significant economic benefit, not only to the West Midlands and Chilterns but the rest of the Midlands and surrounding areas, given the Midlands’ position as a hub of the national transport network.

“Improved transport connectivity is a key driver in growing our region’s economy, increasing competitiveness and productivity. Business will benefit, as will local people. The improvements identified are ambitious but importantly they are both essential and achievable. We look forward to continuing to work with Government and the rail industry to make them a reality.”

The importance of the Midlands Rail Hub has been recognised with £5m of funding provided by the Department for Transport to develop an outline business case. Upgrades identified as part of the Midlands Rail Hub include:

  • Building the Bordesley Chord which will allow key services to access Moor Street station instead of New Street station and provide the potential for new stations at Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell
  • Bringing additional platforms at Moor Street into use
  • Increasing the number of tracks from two to four through Water Orton to accommodate more passenger and freight services
  • Building platform 4 at Snow Hill station
  • Upgrading Moor Street, Snow Hill and University stations

The benefits these upgrades would deliver include:

  • £2bn of economic benefits unlocking new jobs and supporting economic growth
  • Up to 10 extra trains per hour in and out of Birmingham linking with other towns and cities in the Midlands including Leicester, Nottingham and Tamworth and Burton-on-Trent
  • 85,000 extra seats every day
  • Up to 26,000 lorries off the road every year

Wider improvements identified in the study include:

  • A new connection from the Chiltern main line to the new interchange at Old Oak Common in West London to provide additional capacity and access to HS2, Crossrail and the Great Western main line
  • Additional seats on key commuter routes in the Midlands and an increase in evening and Sunday services
  • Increasing the number of tracks between Leamington Spa and Coventry which will increase capacity and allow better connections between Birmingham Airport, Coventry, the south coast, East Midlands and north east
  • Improved services to Birmingham Airport
  • New junctions at Barnt Green and Water Orton which will allow extra trains to run
  • Longer trains into London Marylebone during peak times by 2024
  • Upgrade of the railway in the Worcester area to improve reliability
  • Using digital technology to provide better information to passengers, extra capacity and more reliable services

Following a 90 day consultation Network Rail and Midlands Connect have committed to bringing in longer trains and longer platforms over the next five years. Work has already started to extend platforms and 137 extra vehicles will be brought into service by 2022 through the new West Midlands Franchise.


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