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Midlands Connect to explore formal powers with Whitehall

Midlands Connect, the devolved partnership created to boost rail connectivity across the region, is keen to sit down with Whitehall to explore options for making it a statutory body following the government’s royal assent of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act yesterday.

The group, first announced in October along with a £5m government fund to take the strategy forward, said the Act enables sub-national transport bodies to be formally set up across the country.

If moved onto statutory footing, Midlands Connect – a joint effort by LEPs, councils and national transport agencies – could gain a raft of formal and strengthened powers to develop a region-wide rail strategy.

The group is in the process of identifying rail, road and other transport improvements needed to unlock regional growth, as well as to maximise the jobs and infrastructure benefits embedded in HS2.

Its board member and leader of Derbyshire County Council, Cllr Anne Western, said: “The passing of this legislation gives the Midlands an opportunity to have greater control and influence over investment and should be warmly welcomed.

“Our existing Midlands Connect partnership is already a strong one and is making great progress in drawing up the transport strategy needed to release untapped growth across our region.

“Having a sub-national transport body could bring the relevant parties together on a formal footing to develop that strategy, making it even more co-ordinated and effective.”

The partnership argued that a formal strategy is quickly needed to alleviate “constraints” on the region’s rail and road networks currently making Midlands businesses “less competitive”.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said: “This is a major step forward for devolution, giving local people a say in transport for their area.

“The potential to give Midlands Connect statutory status will ensure it has impact, influence, and the certainty to plan and drive forward its transport strategy, which is a vital part of the Midlands Engine for Growth.”

The Act, which gained royal assent yesterday afternoon, also opened up similar possibilities for sub-national body Transport for the North, which expects to receive statutory status by 2017.

Already endorsed by the government through a £50m fund promised over this Parliament, the body now expects to move its partnership “to a new level” in order to speak with one voice for the whole of the north.


Graham Nalty   29/01/2016 at 16:18

Midlands Connect is a very good idea. They need to look at connecting Midlands cities by better rail services. City pairs such as Coventry - Leicester, Stoke Leicester, Wolverhampton - Derby need direct train services without the delay of a change of trains that makes the train journey too long to compete with the car. Midland Connect has a lot of good work to do connecting Midlands cities and I wish them success.

Huguenot   30/01/2016 at 13:49

I agree in principle with Graham Nulty that journey pairs where there is potential for modal shift from the car should be given priority. However, it would never be economic to provide through trains between all city pairs, especially where connecting services are frequent. What I am more worried about is a return of Central Trains (or its equivalent) which was not a success. Separation into West and East Midlands is a better idea, but beware of breaking up London Midland. If LM London-Trent Valley is separated from West Midlands services then that would spell the end of competition for Virgin on London-Rugby-Coventry-Birmingham and possibly on Trent Valley services too.

Lesf   01/02/2016 at 20:27

A new franchise will be needed to provide the services currently provided by LM not included in the West Mids franchise (Liverpool, Marston Vale), to maintain competition on WCML.

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