Green light for Midlands Rail Hub programme

Delivery of the Midlands Rail Hub programme was given the green light in February 2024 when the Department for Transport in the UK announced the allocation of initial funding to begin design work which, when completed, will mean the start of work to modernise, revitalise and extend the rail infrastructure to increase transport capacity and provide fast, frequent and high quality services. This will mean increasing the attractiveness of passenger rail transport and encouraging people to switch from private road transport to help meet climate change targets by reducing carbon emissions. The projects, based on increased connectivity and access, will also create an optimal environment to make it easier and more comfortable for people to take the train to their destination.

Midlands Rail Hub programmeThe Midlands Rail Hub Programme is a project to rehabilitate and upgrade rail infrastructure to improve connectivity in the Midlands to the South West. With an investment of GBP 1.75 billion (EUR 2 billion), the programme will help provide more frequent services from central Birmingham, which will mean an extra 100 trains a year with fast services to 30 locations including Leicester, Bromsgrove, Nuneaton, Worcester, Hereford, Cardiff and Bristol. The projects are estimated to add more than 14 million extra seats to the network each year.

The plan involves the construction of 15 new or upgraded infrastructure structures that will allow 24 extra passenger trains to run every hour on the regional network, including 20 to and from Birmingham Moor Street, taking pressure from Birmingham New Street station, the busiest station outside London. The project will also see the introduction of a further two trains per hour in both directions from Birmingham to Leicester and Derby and a further two trains per hour in both directions for commuter services on the Camp Hill Line between Kings Norton-Birmingham Moor Street. The realisation of the programme will see a further one train per hour in both directions between Birmingham and the cities of Nottingham, Hereford (via Worcester), Cardiff and Bristol.

The programme will significantly reduce waiting times, travel time and increase connectivity.

According to Midlands Innovation, a collaboration of 8 Midlands research universities, rail usage in the Midlands has grown faster than in any other region of the UK over the last two years, and in the last decade has increased by 121% in the West Midlands and 37% in the East Midlands, which underlines the need for investment in infrastructure upgrading and regeneration, but also its revitalisation to provide increased capacity to meet both current and future demands based on population growth, the need to encourage sustainable transport and the need to shift road traffic to rail through the provision of high quality, connected and modern services.

As part of the programme, the Birmingham junction, which is the busiest rail network on the UK system, will undergo a transformation as it will also serve the future HS2 segment. The Midlands Rail Hub aims to increase capacity at Birmingham Moor Street station which will be adjacent to the new Curzon Street station (of HS2) and reduce congestion pressure on the central lines radiating out of central Birmingham. In this respect, the most cost-effective option in central Birmingham is to build a line connecting the Camp Hill line to the Chiltern main line, which will allow more trains into Birmingham Moor Street station.

The “announcement is part of the government’s plan to invest in transport projects with reallocated HS2 funding, helping to grow the economy and better connect communities across the Midlands. The Midlands Rail Hub will bring huge benefits to passengers in the region and beyond, so it’s great to be in Birmingham with Mayor Andy Street to kick start this important project” Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said.

It should be noted that in October 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the cancellation of the HS2 project except for the first phase (London – Birmingham section) which is currently under construction. As a result, Phase 2a (Birmingham – Crewe section) and Phase 2b (Crewe – Manchester section) will no longer be built. In addition, in 2021, the construction of the North of East Midlands Parkway, which was to route Birmingham – Leeds section (Phase 2b), was cancelled. this will save GBP 36 billion (EUR 41.6 billion), and GBP 19.8 billion (EUR 23 billion) of the Northern leg of HS2 will be reinvested in the North, GBP 9.6 billion (EUR 11 billion) as part of the Midlands leg commitment will be invested in the Midlands and GBP 6.5 billion (EUR 7.6 billion) saved will go to the other regions.

As part of the redirection of rail investment and development plans, in October 2023 the ‘Network North’ transport plan was announced which will see GBP 36 billion (EUR 42 billion) invested, of which the Midlands will benefit from GBP 9.6 billion (EUR 11 billion) of which the Midlands Rail Hub will have an allocated investment of GBP 1.75 billion (EUR 2 billion).

By implementing the Midlands Rail Hub programme, over 7 million people will benefit from frequent and fast services through the 50 stations from Cheltenham to Derby.

The implementation of this programme to increase train capacity and frequency across the East and West Midlands will double capacity between Leicester and Birmingham by increasing the number of trains from 2 to 4 per hour which will increase the number of trains between Birmingham and Bristol from 2 to 3 per hour and with three trains per hour serving Bromsgrove. In short, when the programme is completed, services will increase by 50% and 100% on most routes and Birmingham’s Cross-City line will offer turn-up-and-go services with trains every ten minutes.

In February 2024, the UK Government announced an allocation of GBP 123 million (EUR 143.9 million) which will allow detailed design work to start on the first phase of the programme which involves the need to optimise infrastructure, finalise operational plans for new services and ongoing planning for the Midlands Rail Hub project.

“The Midlands Rail Hub will deliver a revolution in public transport for our region opening up more capacity on the routes in and out of central Birmingham which will allow us to run more services to more places both locally and nationally. “Midlands Rail Hub will also provide an opportunity for us to open more new stations and lines across our network as well as deliver faster journey times into central Birmingham from the new Camp Hill line stations that are currently under construction at Moseley Village, Kings Heath and Pineapple Road,” Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands said.

Also in February, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced a GBP 4.7 billion (EUR 5.5 billion) reallocation from the HS2 project to modernise and develop transport in the North and Midlands, with the Midlands receiving GBP 2.2 billion (EUR 2.57 billion) from April 2025 to improve local public transport links so that residents can focus on and opt for these services over private car travel.  This investment is part of Network North and will have a positive impact on the transport system in the two regions, especially as it is the first allocation to focus on small towns and rural areas, stimulating authorities to start projects to increase the attractiveness of public transport over the next seven years. It is worth noting that during this period, local authorities will receive this funding at an average of at least 9 times more than they currently receive through the Local Transport Fund, a funding mechanism to improve local transport.

“This funding represents a significant investment in our region’s infrastructure (…) This announcement and the improvements it will bring for our communities and businesses across the Midlands, and we will continue to work with government and support our local authorities, to ensure these vital Network North transport upgrades are delivered,” Maria Machancoses, Chief Executive of Midlands Connect said.

The implementation of the first phase of the Midlands Rail Hub programme will mean extra trains every hour in both directions between central Birmingham and Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham and Worcester stations.

“The project is an important one and will bring benefits to the county, with improved services in Worcester, Bromsgrove and Redditch. We recognise the importance of rail travel, and the announcement of this funding [GBP 123 million] is another step towards improving services for our residents, businesses and those visiting our county. The aim of the Midlands Rail Hub is to improve rail connectivity and boost economic growth across the Midlands and towards the south-west through a series of projects across the region,” Marc Bayliss, Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, said.

The funding announcement “marks a major milestone in this transformational, nationally significant project. The Midlands Rail Hub programme is the result of years of collaboration and determination by cross-party leaders from all corners of the Midlands. The announcement is a clear sign of government’s trust in our partnership – getting us closer to finally delivering much needed east-west connectivity across the region,” Maria Machancoses, Chief Executive of Midlands Connect, said.

According to the Midlands Connect business case presented to the Department for Transport in December 2022 for the delivery of the Midlands Rail Hub, two options were considered and the preferred option, “Option B involving the three axis approach – West, Central and East, which includes the other option, was determined, this being a comprehensive one requiring two chords in Bordesley (Birmingham area), the first, the West Chord between Bordesley and Moor Street allowing access to Birmingham Moor Street from the South – West and Wales involving more trains to Hereford, Bristol and Cardiff and restoration of the turn up and go service on the Cross City Line. The second, the East Chord, will allow the introduction of two additional hourly services between Birmingham and Leicester, which will benefit from four trains per hour. In addition, the new East Chord will provide the capacity to introduce more trains in the future. This preferred option, together with the future mix created between conventional (at Birmingham Moor Street station) and high speed services (at the future Curzon Street station of HS2), will provide much better connections from the West Midlands to the East Midlands, and provide increased capacity outside these regions.

The business case shows that this option requires investments between GBP 1.48 billion (EUR 1.73 billion) and GBP 1.54 billion (EUR 1.8 billion), compared to the first option (with costs of GBP 925-969 million – EUR 1 billion-1.1 billion). But although the costs are higher under the preferred option, its implementation will result in benefits of GBP 1 billion (EUR 1.17 billion) over the lifetime of the scheme, of which GBP 200 million (EUR 233.8 million) are benefits to the economy.


The business case also shows a brief estimate of the change in travel patterns caused by the pandemic and the measures adopted during that period, and the 93% recovery in traffic after the pandemic, with estimates of growth, which would lead to impacts on service quality and economic constraints. In addition, the pandemic also influenced and altered travel times, with a focus on increased demand for leisure travel. In this context, the Midlands Rail Hub will provide increased capacity on the network and meet mobility demands for both commuting and travel to work and contribute to economic development.

On the infrastructure side, Midlands Rail Hub West involves the re-installation of Platform 4 at Snow Hill station which will allow passengers to alight in central Birmingham and increase the resilience of the rail infrastructure and its capacity. According to analysis the reinstatement of the platform will mean an additional 350,000 passengers a year to this station. And, importantly, the platform will be reinstated before the completion of the HS2 project in Birmingham, allowing additional direct trains from Birmingham’s business district to London. Moor Street platform 5 will also be re-introduced, improvements will be made between Bordesley and Moor Street (part of the Bordesley West Chord) providing access to Birmingham Moor Street. Further improvements will be made between Kings Norton and Barnt Green as well as electrification and improvements to the Barnt Green junction. Other projects include the rebuilding of Kings Norton station to allow the island platform to come into service and will be reinstated as platforms 2 and 3, (the former for southbound intercity services and the latter for terminating services at Camp Hill) and platform 4 the current southern platform will be used but not as heavily as the others. A new through line will be built between the tracks of platforms 3 and 4 so that services from the Camp Hill terminus will not face capacity constraints. This work will be carried out as part of a project including upgrades and improvements on the Kings Norton – Barnt Green line.

Other projects include the Malvern Wells turnback facility, as well as the partial doubling of the Ledbury – Shelwick. Kings Norton is in the south west of Birmingham and is the rail hub for routes to Birmingham New Street and Birmingham Moor Street. To the south, the route runs to Bromsgrove, Worcester and Bristol.

Within the Midlands Rail Hub Central, considering West infrastructure, projects include Moor Street platforms A & B (east side), Bordesley viaduct widening and Bordesley East Chord.

The completion of the eastern infrastructure is dependent on the completion of central Birmingham, but also the western infrastructure and involves the extension and upgrade of freight loop lines between Nuneaton and Leicester, the introduction of modern signalling systems on the Nuneaton – Wigston lines and interventions in Water Orton to create additional capacity. The network approach in this (eastern) part is to increase rail connectivity on the Leicester and Birmingham route which currently experiences low frequency services with only two trains per hour.

When completed, the project will not only succeed in absorbing some of the road traffic due to the attractiveness of rail services, resulting in 29.3 million fewer miles travelled by car per year. The programme will also lead to the development of housing and jobs in the region, which will mean increased demand for transport. According to the business case, by 2045, 30,000 new homes will be built in Herefordshire and Worcestershire and 23,000 jobs will be created, while in the West Midlands, from 2020 to 2045 an additional 144,000 jobs will be created, of which 96,000 in Birmingham. The highest rate of growth and development is forecast for the period 2030-2035, when the HS2 route is expected to become operational.

Work on part of the Midlands Rail Hub programme is expected to start in 2025 and be completed in 2030.

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