Proposed upgrades to region's rail network welcomed

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A package of proposed rail upgrades with the potential to boost the regional economy by more than £2 billion was today (Friday August 4) welcomed by West Midlands Rail (WMR).  

The consortium of 16 local councils, which will take over the management of local commuter trains later this year, said proposals in Network Rail's West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study would bring significant benefits for passengers and businesses if implemented.  

The study, which was published today, sets out a number of key improvements to underpin economic growth by providing more trains and better connections between towns and cities and with the HS2 high speed rail line.  

At the heart of the Study is the proposed Midlands Rail Hub which includes a series of upgrades to the network around central Birmingham allowing up to 150 extra trains per day and an extra 85,000 seats across the Midlands.  

Cllr Mark Winnington, vice chair of WMR and cabinet member for economc growth at Staffordshire County Council, 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.  

"These proposed improvements to the railway's infrastructure would also provide WMR with an even greater opportunity to improve passenger services in the future.  

"As a consortium of local councils we have already been able to secure a raft of improvements starting in December when we will take over management of the commuter network in partnership with the Government.  

"This devolution of railway powers away from Whitehall has given us an unprecedented level of involvement in shaping what a train company has to deliver for local passengers.  

"So while passengers can already expect better services in the short term, the track and infrastructure improvements set out today would help us to further develop a network that underpins economic growth and jobs and provides passengers with the level of service they need and deserve."  

The importance of the Midlands Rail Hub, which has been drawn up by the Midlands Connect partnership in collaboration with Network Rail, 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 over the next 10 to 30 years

•           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