It’s time to give the Midlands Rail Hub the green light
Transport infrastructure investment will deliver many benefits for communities which aren’t just economic – better transport brings improved social mobility, a cleaner environment and healthier people.
Every time I pick up a newspaper, scroll through Twitter or listen to the news, I hear a new story about levelling up. This phrase now even reverberates through the hallowed halls of the House of Lords, a sure-fire way for me to know that an idea has truly captured the national zeitgeist.
Levelling up means different things to different people. Do we need to level up one neighbourhood compared to another, level up educational attainment, level up employment rates, pay or even health outcomes? There’s no easy answer, but I do believe that we can rely on transport infrastructure investment to deliver many benefits for communities which aren’t just economic – better transport brings improved social mobility, a cleaner environment and healthier people.
For me, one prominent scheme which I want to see real progress on as soon as possible is the Midlands Rail Hub. This is an ambitious yet deliverable £2 billion package of improvements to transform east-west rail connections. The project was awarded £20 million in the March 2020 Budget to develop the scheme to outline business case, taking the vision closer to reality.
The Midlands Rail Hub will kickstart the road to a better-connected, greener and more prosperous Midlands region
As co-chair of the Midlands Engine APPG, securing a bright future for the Midlands region is fundamental to me. Although great strides are already being made in terms of economic growth, we still badly need bold transport investment from government. I am fully backing the Midlands Rail Hub scheme, co-developed by sub-national transport body Midlands Connect and Network Rail, which is a package of strategic improvements designed to better link our towns and cities to each other and to HS2, and help us successfully level up for the long term.
The Midlands Rail Hub will generate more than 12 million extra passenger seats and open up room for over a million polluting lorries’ worth of cargo per year, which can then be moved from road to cleaner rail. This is essential for government’s goal of a decarbonised country by 2050, as each parcel or person moved by rail instead of by a diesel or petrol vehicle creates over 70 per cent less CO2.
During such a challenging economic period following the Covid pandemic, it could be difficult to see why now is the right time to invest in transport infrastructure. The Midlands Rail Hub could deliver a return of £1.60 in benefits for every £1 spent on the project. And that’s not all.
At least 1,600 skilled jobs will be created as a direct result of the rail hub and is an investment in graduates and apprenticeships, who could go on to have a career for life in this sector. The Midlands Rail Hub will also bring a wider pool of employees within easy access of job opportunities in other city centres, as well as bringing investment to East Midlands communities who have historically been left behind in terms of transport spending. The East Midlands receives the lowest transport spend per head in the country, receiving 49 per cent below the UK average and less than a quarter of London’s allocation.
Much of the rail track used every day all around the country dates back to the Victorian era, demonstrating that investment in rail infrastructure truly is fantastic value for money. It’s clear that major transport developments stand the test of time and there’s no doubt that Midlands Rail Hub improvements will still be enjoyed by rail users in the next 100 years.
I can’t wait to see initial works take place as soon as possible, kickstarting the road to a better-connected, greener and more prosperous Midlands region. My message to the Chancellor is this – it’s time to give this project the green light for the Midlands Rail Hub. Let’s go full steam ahead for this critical UK transport project.
Lord Ravensdale is a crossbench peer.
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