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INSIGHTS: Midlands Rail Hub – Onwards to the Full Business Case

Published: Monday 18 March 2024

This time last year, I wrote a very different blog about Midlands Rail Hub. Back then, we were seeking money to enable continued development of the scheme. Fast forward to October last year, and the Prime Minister launched ‘Network North’ at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, and in doing so, announced that the Government is committed to ‘full’ delivery of Midlands Rail Hub. Fast forward again, to March 2024, and we are delighted to announce that we have received our next tranche of funding – just over £120m to develop what is called the Full Business Case – or to the layperson – very detailed engineering designs and costings outlining exactly how the scheme will be built.

To recap, Midlands Rail Hub is the flagship rail scheme for the Midlands and the centrepiece of Midlands Connect’s Midlands Engine Rail portfolio. Through providing new chords (sections of railway line) at Bordesley, just east of Birmingham City Centre, it provides capacity for up to 10 additional trains per hour to operate into and out of the city, to points in the Midlands and beyond. The strategic case for making this investment is compelling – through providing much improved links from the West to the East Midlands; through providing a high capacity, high performance railway with flexibility for the future; and by providing excellent interchange between conventional and HS2 services at Moor Street and Curzon Street respectively. 

So, what goes into the Full Business Case, and why is this such a big milestone for us? This funding will allow us to complete the design for the chords described above, at Bordesley, but also the other components required, including platforms at both Snow Hill and Moor Street Stations. At the former, this is to reinstate ‘Platform 4’, which was formerly used by the Midland Metro but has now been disused for several years following the metro’s extension into Birmingham City Centre. Slightly further afield, the scheme rebuilds Kings Norton Station (bringing the disused platform back into use) and it adds additional track between there and Barnt Green. This will allow us to run an extra train, each hour, from Birmingham Moor Street to each of Worcester, Cardiff and Bristol. It also provides the means for the Cross City Line (linking Redditch and Bromsgrove to Lichfield, via Central Birmingham) to be restored to a service every 10 minutes.

Midlands Rail Hub doesn’t just provide the services described above though. The east-facing chord at Bordesley would unlock new train services from Birmingham Moor Street to locations in the East Midlands, such as Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. A separate funding request is being made for this part of the scheme in due course, but we are hopeful it will ‘catch up’ with the remainder of the scheme, so it can all be delivered together in one go, by the early 2030s at the latest. Remember, the Prime Minister committed to the ‘full’ scheme, not just the part we’ve recently got the funding for.

Last year, I called the scheme a ‘no brainer’. This year, I’m still calling it a no brainer. Great benefits – tick. Great rationale for building it – tick. The money to keep developing it – tick.

Andy Clark is an Integrated Transport Programme Lead at Midlands Connect.