Passenger at a train station, as provided by Midlands Connect

Leaders hail Midlands rail investment as ‘once in a generation’ opportunity

Following a report by Midlands Connect promoting plans for direct rail links between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham, regional leaders have called for investment into what they believe is a “once in a generation” opportunity.

The report, which can be read here, highlights the benefits that investment into reinstating a direct Coventry-Leicester-Nottingham route could deliver for the region and beyond.

It has been released ahead of the expected publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, which is due to be released in the coming weeks and will set the agenda for rail travel and investment for the next 30 years, particularly around Government spending in the Midlands and North of England.

Under the plans promoted by Midlands Connect, direct rail services would be reinstated between the three UK cities for the first time in two decades.

More than two million additional seats would be created on the region’s rail network each year.

Two new trains an hour would be introduced by the improvements, also calling at Loughborough and East Midlands Parkway, stops made possible by a new dive under at Nuneaton to create the necessary space for these services to pass through the area.

This improvement work would coincide with plans to improve line speed along the route, decreasing journey time for passengers.

Currently, passengers travelling along the corridor are required to get off at Nuneaton station, change platforms and board another train, resulting in an inconvenient service. As such, just 3% of trips between Coventry and Leicester are made by rail, compared to 30% between Coventry and Birmingham which does have a regular, direct route.

Moving more passenger journeys onto the railway will help the UK achieve it’s 2050 carbon neutrality targets, but this shift will only occur if travel is convenient for the passengers involved.

The reinstatement of the direct route would be subject to funding, likely to cost in the region of £90-100m, with the first trains running as soon as 2025. It is hoped that the improvements would bring over £170m to the local economy.

Both the Mayor of Leicester and the Leader of Coventry City Council have hailed the new plans as a vital opportunity not to be missed.

Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester City Mayor, said: “I can’t think of two UK cities other than Coventry and Leicester, that are as close, yet so appallingly connected by rail.

“At the moment it can take up to an hour and twenty minutes to travel less than 25 miles, and passengers have to change trains half-way – it’s simply not good enough.

“Given this, it’s no wonder that 97% of trips on this route are made by road. By reintroducing faster, direct connections we can encourage more people to travel sustainably, strengthen working relationships and increase productivity.

“We must now move ahead to create detailed plans for delivery, with the support of Government.”

Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, added: “There’s no other way of looking at it – here we have a missing link, a really important link between the east and the west Midlands, and this is our opportunity to reforge it.

“These plans will open up Coventry, its jobs, leisure destinations and universities to communities across the East Midlands and vice versa.

“At the moment the Midlands’ east – west rail connections are sub-standard, holding us back from a more productive and sustainable future.

“Turning these plans into reality is an essential step in boosting prosperity and public transport use across our region – let’s get on with it.”

TCR Midlands will return on February 10, 2022 in Birmingham to bring together leaders and decision makers from across the Midlands. Find out more here.

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