Coventry could be poised to benefit from a new Birmingham Airport rail link which would see direct train services between the city and the cities of Derby, Sheffield, York and Newcastle.
The Birmingham Airport Connectivity project is a rail improvement scheme that would open up direct rail access to Coventry and Birmingham International stations for 2.2 million people, as well as boosting local commuter links.
The scheme would also see more services between Coventry and a number of other towns and cities.
The major infrastructure scheme is part of efforts to get the Midlands Engine back on track in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The estimated cost of the project is between £125m and £180m.
Today (Wednesday July 15) an outline business case is being submitted to the Department for Transport by Midlands Connect.
It is requesting £20m to develop detailed plans, designs and final costings.
The Birmingham Airport Connectivity rail improvement scheme would open up new, hourly direct connections to Birmingham International and Coventry railway stations for 2.2 million people living in and around Derby, Sheffield, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.
The project, one of seven schemes that makes up the £3.5 billion Midlands Engine Rail programme, would also double the number of services to Birmingham International and Coventry from Leamington Spa, Banbury, Oxford and Reading from one to two trains per hour.
It would also see new direct services between Birmingham Moor Street, Solihull, Warwick Parkway and Oxford.
The enhancements would be made possible by double tracking sections of the railway between Leamington, Kenilworth and Coventry, as well as utilising the additional network capacity created by HS2.
The benefits of these improvements would also be felt by people travelling on the Coventry to Birmingham rail corridor, one of the busiest in Europe, by reducing overcrowding and congestion.
Once double tracking is completed, an additional service each hour to Birmingham International and Coventry from Oxford, Banbury and Leamington could be introduced straight away.
If given the green light it is thought construction could begin in 2024.
After Phase One of HS2 is completed, the additional capacity created on the network will allow the introduction of direct services to Birmingham Airport and Coventry to and from Derby, Sheffield, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.
People from these areas would have easier access to Birmingham Airport, which operates routes to more than 150 destinations worldwide.
The arrival of High Speed Two (HS2) at the nearby Interchange station, which will be connected to Birmingham International via an automated people mover, is acting as a catalyst development and regeneration in the surrounding area.
The Urban Growth Company (UGC), set up by Solihull Council, is leading infrastructure investment across the wider UK Central Hub area which also includes the 346-acre Arden Cross site, supporting up to 5,000 new homes, 650,000 sq m of commercial space and 70,000 new and existing jobs.
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Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect, said: “As we work to recover from the economic impacts of Covid-19; embarking on an ambitious and successful path post Brexit, our international connections and relationships with other UK regions will become more important than ever.
“Providing a step change in rail connectivity to the city of Coventry and Birmingham International railway station, our proposals will enhance access to Birmingham Airport, the West Midlands’ gateway to the world, as well as the nearby NEC, Resorts World and Jaguar Land Rover.
“Integrating these upgrades into the existing network, with the arrival of HS2 at the adjacent Interchange station, will generate unparalleled investment and growth, creating jobs, thousands of new homes and more places to work, live and relax.
“Our proposals will benefit workers, residents and travellers, bringing two million more people to within a direct rail journey of these exciting destinations.”
Councillor George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “There’s no doubt that Coventry as a business and leisure destination has a huge amount to offer.
“This project will create direct rail links between Coventry and the cities of Derby, Sheffield, York and Newcastle, linking over two million more people to the city’s sports venues, museums, workplaces and tourism hotspots, many of which will receive global recognition next year during our UK City of Culture celebrations.
“The scheme will also deliver major long term benefits for local rail users.
“To build on our 2021 legacy, and as we move towards a carbon-zero economy and bounce back from the economic impacts of Covid-19, it is vital that these improvements go ahead.”
Nick Barton, CEO of Birmingham Airport, said: “Enhanced rail connectivity to and from our regional cities and towns is crucial for our airport customers and employees, and supports our rail modal share target of 25.5% by the year 2023.
“Investing in infrastructure is now even more important than ever to help stimulate the economic recovery following the pandemic.
“We look forward to working with our partners to plan for the future and connect the regions by rail and air once again.”