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A £2bn package of improvements to transform east-west connections on the Midlands’ rail network has been submitted to the government.
The plans, which can be completed in phases between 2024 and 2033, have been submitted to the government by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect, in partnership with Network Rail and with the backing of 47 partner organisations including West Midlands Combined Authority, councils, LEPs, chambers of commerce, HS2 and Birmingham Airport.
Midlands Connect has said that building additional capacity into the network will "future proof" the regional network for the next generation, with "significant benefits" for passengers, freight and the economy.
According to the organisation, the plans would have an economic benefit of £649m a year by 2037, with 1.6 million more people brought within an hour of the Midlands’ major towns and cities by public transport.
There would also be increased access to HS2, especially from Herefordshire and Worcestershire, with dozens of extra services a day brought into an enhanced Birmingham Moor Street station, adjacent to the new high speed terminus at Curzon Street.
The plans also include 36 additional freight paths a day, creating space to shift the equivalent of 4,320 lorries’ worth of goods from road to rail every day.
Under the proposed plans, direct services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham reinstated for the first time since 2004, with two trains per hour in each direction.
There would also be two extra trains per hour to and from Birmingham to Derby, Birmingham to Leicester and Birmingham to Kings Norton via the Camp Hill Line (serving the Birmingham suburbs of Hazelwell, Kings Heath & Moseley).
The proposals also include one extra train per hour to and from Birmingham to Nottingham, Birmingham to Hereford, Birmingham to Worcester, Birmingham to Bristol and Birmingham to Cardiff.
Journey times would also improve from 72 minutes to 59 between Birmingham and Nottingham, from 85 to 65 from Birmingham and Hereford and from 57 to 38 between Leicester and Coventry.
Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Connect, said: "The Midlands Rail Hub is a cost-effective, evidence-led plan to upgrade our Victorian infrastructure to meet the demands of the future.
"These proposals capture the enormous economic potential of the Midlands, with 320,000 new jobs estimated by 2030, mainly in professional services firms who depend on good rail connectivity to attract skilled workers.
"This investment must happen alongside delivering HS2 in its entirety, from the West Midlands to the East Midlands and on to the north of England.
"The next Prime Minister of this country must not ignore the Midlands, the 10 million people who live here, or our £220bn annual contribution to the UK economy. Now is the time for the government to prove to the Midlands it’s listening to us."
West Midlands mayor Andy Street added: "The Midlands Rail Hub is a really important investment for the whole of the region – and it comes with my support and the support of the East Midlands.
"Rail has been a huge part of the Midlands’ success story, and we need this kind of investment if our network is to keep growing and supporting our economy.
"At around £2bn, the Midlands Rail Hub is genuinely a bargain when you consider some of the projects that have already happened in London.
"The secretary of state for transport must persuade the Treasury to support this project to boost the region’s connectivity and with it, the region’s economy."
Leicester city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "This project is a great opportunity to improve connectivity between the East and West Midlands, something which has sadly been overlooked for many years.
"It will provide brilliant direct rail links between Leicester and Coventry - the two biggest cities currently not connected by a direct rail service, and provide a true alternative to the car.
"The faster and more frequent trains between Leicester and Birmingham will help release the economic potential of the whole Midlands area, and will be greatly welcomed by all rail passengers."
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