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26.06.19

Malcolm Holmes: Midlands Rail Hub 'about connecting people'

The Midlands Rail Hub summary report was released today and we spoke with Malcolm Holmes, executive director of the West Midlands Rail Executive, about what impact the proposed £2bn investments would have to rail connectivity within the region.

He said: "The Midlands Rail Hub, if we get the funding to do it, will represent the biggest investment in our rail network in a generation at £2.2bn which will bring 24 new routes in central Birmingham. That gives us the opportunity to rethink the local rail services here, as well as connectivity further afield.

"For me it's about connecting communities within the West Midlands so better rail services out to Kings Norton, beyond to places such as Worcester and Hereford. Connecting Coventry again to Leicester, putting that connection back that was taken away in 2003 when the west coast route was upgraded.

"Fundamentally, it's about providing this region with the connectivity and capacity that it needs."

Mr Holmes was present at a gathering of a number of key decision-makers over the Midlands Rail Hub proposal at Birmingham's Moor Street station. Also present were Midlands Connect chair Sir John Peace and director Maria Machancoses.

READ MORE: Midlands Rail Hub proposal document launches in Birmingham

While much talk was made around the need for the Midlands Rail Hub investment so that old and antequated routes could receive vital upgrades, the proposed investment would also significantly increase the capacity available on the Midlands' rail network.

This increased capacity, and the potential additional connectivity it could provide, was an important factor in why Mr Holmes was keen to see the plan funded.

MidlandsRailHub group

He explained: "This isn’t about pouring concrete and putting tracks down, it’s about connecting people which is absolutely what we’re in this business to do.

"It's about getting people to jobs as well as allowing grandparents to visit their grandkids, getting people to get to university and school, and so on.

"We’ve got the biggest rail use for community in the UK outside of London, but there are many communities that are on rail lines that we don’t have an effective community service, either because there is insufficient capacity or because the fares are too high to market for those routes or we haven’t been able to put stations there because we haven’t got enough capacity. Examples of those would be places like Castle Bromwich, out towards Tamworth.

"Tamworth itself in fact doesn’t have a good enough commuting service, which the Midlands Rail Hub would allow us to serve because the capacity would be there."

The majority of trips between major cities within the Midlands are currently completed by car, commonly due to slow, indirect and infrequent rail services, and there was a consensus belief that with the Midlands Rail Hub a large number of these journeys would move across to rail services.

The future of rail in the Midlands is being discussed at TCR Midlands, a networking event designed for rail professionals.

TCR Midlands is being held at the Vox Conference Centre in Birmingham on 18 July, featuring Mr Holmes as a speaker at the event. Ms Machancoses will be the keynote speaker for the evening. Visit the website here to enquire.

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