The Midlands Rail Hub will receive an extra £20 million following the Government’s budget announcement to boost transport infrastructure in the West Midlands.
The investment is part of the ‘‘levelling up’’ agenda after a decade of Conservative austerity and will secure major improvements to local rail services.
It comes in the wake of recent poor performance from West Midlands Trains which has seen punctuality along some lines plunge below 50 per cent.
Directly-elected Mayor for the West Midlands Combined Authority Cllr Andy Street has welcomed the move.
“The Chancellor did what the country needed in terms of responding to the economic consequences of coronavirus, and he also showed his confidence in the West Midlands with further investment across the critical areas of transport, housing and skills.”
“For transport, he talked about over half a billion pounds, our share of this regional transport infrastructure fund coming in two years’ time. That is a lot of money, the biggest single investment in transport ever, we will look forward to making our plans for that really important cash.”
Cllr Street described West Midlands Travel’s performance last summer as ‘diabolical’, but recommended the company’s franchise retention to the Department of Transports following an improved service since the new year.
Trains arrived within five minutes of the scheduled departure time an average of 84.4% of the time in the past four weeks compared to in the second half of 2019 where trains were on time 56.6% of the time across all lines run by the franchise.
As part of a five year funding plan from 2022-23, the Government has allocated a further £4.2 billion to be shared between the UK’s eight combined authorities -West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tyne and Wear, West of England, Sheffield City Region, Tees Valley and the West Midlands.
A condition of receiving this funding is that any transport infrastructure plans proposed by the directly-elected mayors must be Government approved.
Cllr Street will be involved in discussions with the Government later this year to earmark where this additional funding should be spent.
West Midlands Combined Authority has suggested that as more money has been made available to the region, transport investment will be of crucial importance in building on the devolution powers that they currently have with Westminster.
It is likely to make real changes for bus, rail and tram infrastructure in Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
The investment funding coincides with the consultation period of the draft Birmingham Transport Plan 2031, which aims to encourage greater connectivity and to meet its aim of becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030. The consultation period will end on March 27 this year.
Referring to the 2031 plan, Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar said it meant a huge boost for the region’s infrastructure.
“At the heart of this is the need to help the city to become a place where walking, cycling and using green public transport are the best and most preferred ways of travel, reducing our reliance on private cars.
“Transport is an essential ingredient in ensuring that the growth of Birmingham is both inclusive and sustainable.”
The Government allocated an extra £1 billion to the Transforming Cities Fund to help create a substantial pot of money for capital infrastructure projects across the country with significant focus on roads, rail and tram networks.
Potholes have also been addressed by this budget, with a £500 million cash boost per year to help fix Britain’s potholes. As Staffordshire and Shropshire have some of the worst roads in Britain, this should mean that some of that money finds its way to the Midlands.