Midlands set for rail and road boost

August 9 2017   | Region: West Midlands

Midlands set for rail and road boost
Major economic growth is expected to result from a raft of proposed rail and road network upgrades in the West Midlands which have taken important steps forward this week.
Network Rail has set out priorities for the development of a new ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ in its West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study, published on Friday. And on Monday Highways England revealed its preferred option for a major junction upgrade on the M42 near Solihull.
Between them the projects are expected to provide billions of pounds worth of economic benefits and improve connectivity with High Speed 2.
The rail hub alone will potentially provide a £2Bn economic boost over the next 10-30 years. The initiative could provide capacity for 150 additional trains per day in and out of Birmingham while improving links with the new HS2 station at Curzon Street.
Network Rail’s route managing director Martin Frobisher said: “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.”
Proposed measures identified as part of the Midlands Rail Hub include building the Bordesley Chord to allow key train services to access an upgraded Birmingham Moor Street – adjacent to Curzon Street. The hub would also provide extra capacity for freight trains to access key terminals, taking lorries off the road. 
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.
West Midlands Rail – a consortium of 16 local councils which will soon take over the management of local commuter trains in the region – welcomed the package of proposals. The group’s vice chair Mark Winnington said: “The proposals in this study would bring significant benefits for West Midlands passengers with more trains, more destinations and more capacity.
“That is crucial when you consider there will be an estimated 24 million extra passenger train journeys being made in the Midlands each year by 2023.”
Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses added: “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.”
Meanwhile Highways England’s planned capacity upgrade for junction 6 of the M42 near Solihull is also geared towards improving access to HS2 via the planned Birmingham Interchange station.
A preferred route for the £282M scheme was announced this week following a public consultation. The project will see a new 2.4km dual carriageway link road build between the A45 Clock Interchange and a new junction on the M42, south of junction 6. Construction is expected to start in 2020.
“This is a vital scheme which will support economic growth in the area and beyond,” said Highways England senior project manager Jonathan Pizzey. “It will also improve access to HS2, the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham Airport and future developments such as the UK Central development area.”
♦ Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has announced the launch of an action plan aimed at combatting congestion on key regional roads. “We know future investments in motorway enhancement and HS2 will put even more pressure on the road network,” he said.
“Clearly, the long term approach has to involve moving people out of cars and this will require a revolution in investment in rail, buses, trams and cycling. But this will take many years to fully deliver. In the meantime, this congestion busting action plan will take simple but effective steps to overcome some of the issues that rightly frustrate commuters.”
Delivery of the plan – which aims to tackle congestion hotspots and ensure transport construction works are coordinated – will be led by Anne Shaw who joins the West Midlands Combined Authority from Birmingham City Council.
(Photo: Network Rail)

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