Rail bosses attempt to win increased funding

Local transport chiefs will lobby Westminster in an attempt to get greater funding for the region’s railways.

TrainsBosses at Centro, the region’s transport authority, are to meet with Transport Secretary Justine Greening in a bid to win a better funding deal for rail projects in the West Midlands. Centro is keen to discuss the level of investment for the West Midlands rail network between 2014 and 2019 proposed under the Initial Industry Plan (IIP).

Chief executive Geoff Inskip told members of the Integrated Transport Authority considering its response to the IIP that he had written to MPs about the “paucity” of the plans. Dudley North MP Ian Austin raised the issue in parliament and prompted the meeting with Ms Greening.

A formal date for the meeting has yet to be finalised but the controversial proposals would see the Midlands receive investment of just £57 million out of a total proposed budget of around £10 billion. The IIP has been drawn up by the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies, the Rail Freight Operators Association, and the Rail Industry Association and represents the industry’s view of funding priorities. Although not binding on the Government, it is influential when ministers decide funding.

Under the proposals the lion’s share goes to London and the South East, which gets between £349.5 million and £389.4 million (40%) depending on total costs.

Eight schemes identified by Centro as priorities for the five year period, known as CP5, would be extremely unlikely to get off the ground in that time. These include re-opening of the line from Walsall to Stourbridge, the Camp Hill Chords scheme introducing services from Birmingham Moor Street to Kings Norton and Water Orton plus electrification of the Walsall to Rugeley line as well as increasing capacity and modernising stations on several other routes. The only regional schemes in the Midlands the IIP proposals say should go ahead are capacity enhancements at Water Orton and between Leamington and Coventry.

Mr Inskip said Centro believed the IIP did not adequately address the jobs and regeneration needs of the region. They also failed to link in with Government thinking on the proposed high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London.

He said: “There should be a much wider package of infrastructure investment around the region in order to improve accessibility to both labour and goods markets, stimulating economic growth, job creation and increasing local and national productivity.

“We are asking the Secretary of State to consider the IIP and tell the rail industry that they should rethink these proposals and give far more emphasis to jobs and regeneration.”

Centro recently commissioned a study from KPMG which looks set to demonstrate that such a programme of regional rail enhancements would increase economic productivity in the West Midlands by more than £400 million.

No decisions have been taken by the Government on the IIP proposals and Mr Inskip said Centro would continue to press the case for regional investment in the West Midlands.