Midlands Engine


West Midlands Rail Executive’s Malcolm Holmes on the 30 year Rail Investment Strategy and working with Midlands Connect

Malcolm Holmes, Chief Director of the West Midlands Rail Executive, joins us to discuss the 30-year Rail Investment Strategy, and how he and his team are working closely with Midlands Connect to deliver on uplifting capacity and bettering services for people across the region ahead of TCR Midlands 2019.

What do your roles as Executive Director, West Midlands Rail Executive and Director of Rail, Transport for West Midlands involve?

The rail executive has a number of roles. Its purpose is fundamentally about improving people’s lives and improving connectivity for the benefit of people’s lives, the economy and the region. We do that through collaboration: a lot of my role is about building, maintaining and growing collaborative relationships, which is fundamentally important. My job is to essentially lead for rail for the West Midlands.

Can you tell us more about the 30-year strategy?

The Rail investment strategy is our look in to the future as to what we believe the capacity needs for the rail network in the West Midlands. We’ve got a lot going on now, we have a huge amount of activity that is happening over the course of the next 10 years to deliver an uplift in capacity and better services for the people in the region.

HS2 and the Midlands Rail Hub are very exciting, all bringing extra capacity into the region - so fundamentally important. The other thing I am particularly excited about is looking further into the future at some of the ambitious stuff.

Are there any projects coming up?

We have a number of projects underway, the next phase is working with Midlands Connect to try to see if there are any early wins from the Rail Midlands Hub work that they are doing to bring forwards capacity enhancements.

What is your vision for rail across the Midlands?

My vision is to create an inclusive network that people can get to, sufficient capacity for people to get to where they work, places of education to allow grandparents to visit their grandkids. It’s very much about people. And we do that by ensuring the rail network has sufficient capacity at the times that people want it and use that as part of their lives, connecting with other modes of transport to allow people to get about. I’d like to see many people across the region closely connected. I like to think that rail is more than just a means of transport, stations has a huge role in people’s communities. I’d like to see that role evolve and developed.

How integral is rail to the Midlands Engine?

It is fundamentally important because of the significant economic impact of rail. It’s hugely important both in terms of connecting people and businesses across the wider region and also allowing people to get to work. We have a congestion problem in the region. Rail helps relieve that and provides an effective way of of getting people to work. An interesting statistic is that rail is one of the dominant modes for peak time commuting in Birmingham city centre;  more people travel by rail compared to any other city other than London.

How integral is the Digital Railway to the Midlands Engine?

Digital Railway is fundamentally about two things. One is its about capacity and allowing better use, therefore our infrastructure and more trains. It’s also about giving people easy access to the railway. Allowing people to buy tickets or to get information by digital means that it is more responsive and more tailored to individuals’ lives.

Why do you think it’s important for leaders from across the region to come together at TCR Midlands?

It’s very much about collaboration, no individual organisation can do this alone. It doesn’t matter who they are, and it doesn’t matter how powerful they are. There is a need for us all together. Whether that involves all the other different parts of the rail industry, it involves the supply chain and it involves government - local, regional, and national - and it requires those parts of the industry to come together in order to allow the system that is the rail network to run effectively. It’s about leaders working together.

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