With a population of 10 million people, the Midlands is similar in size to Sweden and Portugal – but it is often overlooked when it comes to transport investment.
The region’s sub-national transport body, Midlands Connect, plans to change that. The organisation’s director, Maria Machancoses, will take a far more assertive approach towards progressing the region’s aspirations for better transport links, including its £2bn Midlands Rail Hub.
Speaking at this month’s Midlands Transport Summit in Birmingham, she said: “Here in the Midlands we have a reputation for being nice. We’re the middle child stuck between two, high-maintenance siblings … We’re kind of used to being side-lined by our parents – the Department for Transport and the Treasury. We’re used to them paying more attention to Sister London and Brother North.”
Machancoses said it was now time for this family dynamic to change. “I’ve had enough of having to justify our importance as a region. And enough of keeping quiet while our siblings argue over leftovers … As of today, that changes.” she said.
“We’re here today to speak up, as the Midlands, to ruffle a few feathers … We’re not going to take no for an answer.”
There’s no denying that many rail journey times between the major centres in the North of England are too long – but the same can also be said for the Midlands. For example, the train takes 72 minutes to cover the 50 miles between Birmingham and Nottingham – whereas it takes just 45 minutes to cover the slightly shorter distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh (cities of a comparable size). The £2bn Midlands Rail Hub plan would reduce the Birmingham-Nottingham journey to 59 minutes.
This plan also includes the introduction of new direct services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham for the first time in two decades. “Today, only 1% of people get the train between Coventry and Leicester,” said Machancoses. “Madness. The Rail Hub will change that.”
Elaborating on the benefits, she said: “For residents, the Midlands Rail Hub means more attractive rail travel, access to more jobs, more places to live and visit. For businesses, it means access to a wider pool of skilled staff and easier access to clients and collaborators.”
Rail minister Andrew Jones has expressed his support for the aspiration at the launch of the Midlands Rail Hub in Leicester last month, but Machancoses will be pushing for a firmer commitment. Pointing out that Londoners were not asked to choose between Thameslink and Crossrail, Machancoses said: “We need both HS2 and the Midlands Rail Hub. Not one or the other.”
She concluded: “This month marks a turning point for the Midlands. No longer, are we the forgotten, middle child … “The Midlands needs investment. The Midlands deserves investment.”
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.