Business leaders in the Midlands are calling for improved rail links in the region, similar to the proposed improvements for the north of England.
Yesterday the Government announced its backing for HS3 – a new high-speed rail link to improve connections between Manchester, Leeds and other northern cities.
But this has only confirmed the view held by business and community groups in the Midlands that the region is the ‘poor relation’ with regard to infrastructure spending.
Midlands Connect, which was launched earlier this year to promote strategic transport investment across the region, is due to shortly issue its own report identifying potential connectivity improvements. It is likely to push for better rail connections to Birmingham’s HS2 stations, which could mean another high-speed line being built to link West and East Midlands – HS4.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and a member of Midlands Connect, said: “The report by Sir David Higgins, the HS2 chairman, underlines the importance not only of HS2 but of better regional transport options.
“The Midlands has consistently punched below its weight when it comes to infrastructure investment.
“The Northern Hub, a major rail project across the North now called HS3, is a powerful example of how a successful infrastructure project can attract Treasury funding when the economic geography is wide enough. This has led to the North West achieving three times the investment per head than the West Midlands.
“HS2 will provide an incredible stimulus to the region’s infrastructure but the Midlands needs to come together to ensure that infrastructure projects go beyond political borders.
“One way that the imbalance will be addressed is through the Midlands Connect project, an ambitious programme founded by policy makers across the Midlands that seeks to emulate the success of the Northern Hub in identifying how transport can improve the region’s economy.”
Midlands Connect’s members include local enterprise partnerships, Network Rail, the Highways Agency, local authorities and the business community. The report it is currently researching will focus on:
- Developing an integrated plan for improved connectivity to HS2
- Addressing east-west Midlands connections
- Addressing capacity for freight movements
- Improving connectivity to international markets via the region’s airports.