Dozens of cities across the UK could benefit from Midlands Engine Rail, a € 3.5 billion improvement program proposed by sub-national Midlands Connect to redevelop the region’s rail network.
The Midlands Engine is a coalition of Councils, Combined Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), Universities and businesses across the region, actively working with Government to build a collective identity, to enable the region to present the Midlands as a competitive and compelling offer that is attractive at home and overseas. Midlands Connect is the transport arm of the Midlands Engine and was established in October 2015 with one objective – to determine what transport infrastructure was needed to boost the region’s economy. The partnership is made up of 22 local authorities, nine Local Enterprise Partnerships, East Midlands and Birmingham airports, and chambers of commerce stretching from the Welsh border to the Lincolnshire coast. This branch has just presented a rail program of 3.5 billion investments.
The program, which consists of seven projects spanning the East and West Midlands, is strategically important for boosting the economy and promoting sustainability, productivity and social mobility across the region. It builds on the Midlands Rail Hub, which was introduced in June, and aims in particular at modernizing existing routes instead of building new ones. Some £ 600m would be used to power the Midland Main Line from Market Harborough to Sheffield, a program that the government canceled in July 2017.
The report, available at this link, is a very interesting document that shows the modal shares on each section of the Midlands. This prospectus of improvements requires a total investment of approximately £3.5bn. Midlands Engine Rail provides Government with a long-term pipeline of projects to invest in championing social mobility, increased sustainability and economic growth across the Midlands Engine region.
Midlands Engine Rail , which is scheduled to deliver incrementally from 2022 until the completion of the second HS2 phase, will provide much-needed capacity boosts in national, local and regional rail transport, and will accommodate 736 more passenger trains per day on the network. In the last two years, the number of rail travelers in the Midlands has risen faster than elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Most of the British long-distance routes run from London to north or south. The fastest train from Birmingham to London takes 73 minutes for 100 miles, almost as fast as the fastest train to Nottingham half way. The Midlands Engine Rail would shorten the time to Nottingham to 33 minutes.
Up to 60 sites could benefit from improved services, including Birmingham, Leicester, Coventry, Nottingham, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Worcester and Wolverhampton. Due to the central location of the Midlands in the heart of the UK transport network, the program is also nationally significant and brings advantages to Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle, Kettering and Sheffield.
Fully integrated with HS2, Midlands Engine Rail includes plans for two new conventionally compatible services that will connect Nottingham and Leicester city centers directly to the new high-speed network. Improvements will increase the speed and frequency of existing services and introduce new direct services, such as connecting Leicester to the cities of Leeds and Coventry. In addition, it should reduce CO2 emissions and promote both passengers and freight transport rail.
As a start, politicians and business leaders are calling on Boris Johnson to back Midlands Engine Rail with funding for the initial stage of its development, which would be £45.5 million over the next three years. They say they want him to ‘display the same enthusiasm for infrastructure investment in the Midlands as he has in the North’. If they went ahead, the upgrades would be completed in stages between 2022 and the 2030s, when Phase 2 of HS2 is set to open.
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