Comment

02.07.19

Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

Source: RTM June/July

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birmingham on 18 July. Get your tickets online here.

With increasingly louder voices calling for greater investment in the area, the needs of the Midlands cannot not ignored. Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, argues that the case for infrastructure change must not become a political football.

More than ever before, the debate about infrastructure is focused on cost, rather than outcomes. Major projects like HS2 are rightly subject to close scrutiny, but as an industry we haven’t always done enough to sell the many and various benefits that transforming our railways will bring to the economy.

Several years in the making and in partnership with Network Rail, our Strategic Outline Business Case for up to £2bn of upgrades has been submitted to the Department for Transport for consideration. If the funding is secured – and as anyone in the industry knows, these things take time - it will be the biggest package of rail investment in the region for a generation.

The Midlands Rail Hub is a combination of track upgrades, freight loops, signalling and points, new platforms, passing places, doubling and four-tracking, alongside two more substantial pieces of new infrastructure. The first – the Bordesley Chords – has long been feted as the best way of bringing significant extra capacity into Birmingham.

 maria

The plan is to create new links to viaducts from the south west and east midlands into an enhanced Birmingham Moor Street station, making dozens of extra services possible every day including to and from Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Hereford and Worcester.

It’s investment the Midlands is crying out for. The North-South divide argument over transport spending is well-established and highly publicised, but it too often ignores the 10 million Midlanders in between them, and the unique challenges our transport network faces.

Like HS2, the Midlands Rail Hub will take time and bestride several governments and prime ministers. That is why infrastructure must not become a political football, where rhetoric and misinformation win out over evidence. The Midlands Rail Hub is both transformational and affordable, and goes a long way to satisfying the government’s much-vaunted rebalancing of the economy agenda.

We are living through one of the most tumultuous periods in our political history, and we stand at a proverbial crossroads. We cannot let indecision and uncertainty dictate what happens next. The needs of the Midlands must not be ignored, and I will continue to join the increasingly loud voices of those calling for proper investment in the great regions of this country. Now is the time to make ourselves heard.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN OUR JUNE/JULY EDITION OF RTM.

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