Plans to reinstate direct rail services between Leicester and Coventry for the first time since 2004 form part of a £2 billion package of improvements to transform east-west connections on the Midlands’ rail network.
Today, the Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP visited Leicester together with Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect to meet with Sir Peter Soulsby, City Mayor, Nick Rushton, Leader of Leicestershire County Council and Andy Reed, Deputy Chair of the LLEP. They were joined by other representatives from the Midlands for a round table discussion at City Hall.
The Midlands Rail Hub outlines plans to build 15 pieces of new and improved infrastructure to enable 24 extra passenger trains every hour on the regional network, reduce journey times and grow the economy by bringing the East and West Midlands closer together.
The plans, which can be completed in phases between 2024 and 2033, have been submitted to the government by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect, in partnership with Network Rail and with the backing of 47 partner organisations including local authorities, LEPs, chambers of commerce, HS2 and East Midlands Airport.
The proposals will make space for up to 24 new passenger services an hour, including new direct services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham, and two additional trains per hour between Leicester and Birmingham.
In the last decade, passenger rail journeys have increased by 37% in the East Midlands, but without investment the region’s rail network can’t keep pace with this record demand. Many services between major towns and cities in the Midlands remain slow and infrequent.
Building additional capacity into the network will future proof the regional railway for the next generation, with significant benefits for East Midlands passengers, freight and the economy:
• Space for 24 extra passenger trains an hour, with an estimated six million more journeys per year;
• New direct services between Coventry-Leicester-Nottingham for the first time since 2004, cutting 19 minutes from the Leicester-Coventry journey time (57 to 38 minutes);
• Two additional trains per hour between Leicester and Birmingham, with a 13 minute reduction in the journey time (55 to 42 minutes);
• More than 200,000 people in Leicestershire will be brought within an hour’s journey of Birmingham and Coventry via public transport ;
• An estimated economic benefit of £649 million a year by 2037.
Proposed Interventions include:
Nuneaton Dive under or Flyover (2026-2033): Reinstatement of a driveunder or construction of a flyover of the West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton (or a reversal at Nuneaton station) to enable direct services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham (estimated cost £100-120m);
Leicester area enhancement (2026-2033): freight loops and track improvements to increase speeds and capacity for extra services (estimated cost £15-25m)
Leicester Corridor (by 2026); a series of incremental improvements allowing faster new and existing services from Birmingham to Leicester (estimated cost £150-200m);
Leicester (Wigston) (2026-2033) – Nuneaton capacity improvement: Improved signalling to allow passenger and freight trains to run closer together, increasing frequency (estimated cost £80-90 million).
Integration with HS2
Midlands Connect, alongside its partners and the business community, has repeatedly made the case for the delivery of HS2 in its entirety, including Phase 2b from the West Midlands to the East Midlands and on to Leeds, alongside associated investment in the existing network.
The Midlands Rail Hub creates space for dozens of additional services from the East Midlands in to Birmingham Moor Street station each day, and is fully integrated with a vision to redevelop the historic 1909 station, led by West Midlands Rail Executive. This vision will ensure passengers can move seamlessly between the traditional and high speed networks.
Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Connect, said:
“The Midlands Rail Hub is a cost-effective, evidence-led plan to upgrade our Victorian infrastructure to meet the demands of the future. These proposals capture the enormous economic potential of the Midlands, with 320,000 new jobs estimated by 2030, mainly in professional services firms who depend on good rail connectivity to attract skilled workers.
“This investment must happen alongside delivering HS2 in its entirety, from the West Midlands to the East Midlands and on to the north of England. The next Prime Minister of this country must not ignore the Midlands, the 10 million people who live here, or our £220 billion annual contribution to the UK economy. Now is the time for the government to prove to the Midlands it’s listening to us.”
Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said:
“This project is a great opportunity to improve connectivity between the East and West Midlands, something which has sadly been overlooked for many years. It will provide brilliant direct rail links between Leicester and Coventry – the two biggest cities currently not connected by a direct rail service, and provide a true alternative to the car.
“The faster and more frequent trains between Leicester and Birmingham will help release the economic potential of the whole Midlands area, and will be greatly welcomed by all rail passengers.”
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