Why I'm backing the Midlands Rail Hub

Today marks an exciting new chapter in the future of the Midlands' railway network. An opportunity for us to right some of the wrongs that hold our society back, to bring the east and west of our region closer together and to boost economic growth. It's no secret that we're in the midst of an environmental crisis, our most deprived communities are trapped by poor social mobility, and low productivity continues to frustrate our businesses. Here lies a solution that can address all of these issues, supercharge our rail network, give more people access to more jobs, education and leisure, bring businesses closer to their customers and take traffic off our congested roads and onto our railways. We must deliver the Midlands Rail Hub.

The need for investment is clear. In the past two years, rail journeys have grown more in the Midlands than anywhere else in the UK, however, while many commuter services are bursting at the seams, anyone who's taken the train between cities in the East and West Midlands, like I have, will know how slow, infrequent or indirect services can be. As a result, fewer than one in four journeys from Birmingham to Nottingham, Leicester and Derby are made by rail. Look north, and our shameful overreliance on private vehicles is thrown into sharper focus; half of those travelling between Manchester and Sheffield or Liverpool and York do so by train. Making rail travel more convenient and attractive is essential if we're to drive this much-needed behavioural change.

The Midlands Rail Hub is a £2bn programme of improvements, spanning 15 pieces of new and upgraded infrastructure. New infrastructure at Nuneaton will see direct services reintroduced between Nottingham, Leicester and Coventry for the first time since 2004. Trains between our major economic centres will be faster and more regular. Purpose-built viaducts at Bordesley will open up access to Birmingham Moor Street station from the East Midlands, South West England and Wales, delivering passengers to the doorstep of the city's new HS2 terminus at Curzon Street. There will be three more journeys each hour from my constituency to the West Midlands; Nottingham to Coventry down to 63 minutes from 99 minutes; Nottingham to Birmingham in under an hour for the first time ever. All in all the Midlands Rail Hub means 24 more trains each hour on our regional network.

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for the Midlands Rail Hub lies in the transformational impact it will have on rail freight capacity, not just in our region, but UK-wide. By creating space for 36 extra freight paths a day, it will allow the equivalent of 4,320 lorries' worth of goods to be shifted from the roads onto our railways. Ensuring that these services are not restricted to weekends or overnight will empower businesses to make greener choices, with these journeys generating 76 per cent less CO2 than equivalent road transit.

I cannot emphasise enough the need for the whole Midlands region to unite behind this vision. Where previously we have been ignored by Westminster, we must now be heard. No, we will not choose between the Midlands Rail Hub and HS2, we need both, mobility from east to west as well as north to south. No, we will not accept half measures, as has been touted by Government in its scaled-back plans for partial electrification of the Midland Main Line. No, we will not be whitewashed from the public consciousness, as was implied in a recent House of Lords report 'Rethinking HS2' which failed to mention the Midlands even once in a list of twenty four strategic recommendations. We need the Midlands Rail Hub. I call on Government, and whoever becomes the new Prime Minister of this country in July, to back this essential and transformational project.