New direct rail links to major cities could be coming to Coventry

Improvements would mean new direct services to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Newcastle.

Coventry could gain 128 extra passenger trains per day under Midlands Engine Rail, a £3.5 billion improvement programme to transform the region’s rail network, launched this week by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect.

Improvements would increase the speed and frequency of existing services as well as introducing new direct services, including the reintroduction of a direct link between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham for the first time in two decades and new links from Coventry to Derby, Sheffield and Newcastle.

Made up of seven projects spanning the region, the programme is strategically-important in supercharging the Midlands’ Engine economy and is designed to drive sustainability, productivity and social mobility across the whole region. 

It includes and builds on the flagship Midlands Rail Hub scheme, aimed at boosting east-west connectivity, which was submitted to the government in June 2019.

Designed to be delivered in stages from 2022 to the completion of HS2 Phase Two, Midlands Engine Rail will provide a much-needed capacity boost for national, local and regional rail services, creating space for 736 more passenger trains on the network each day – 128 of these services will run in to and out of Coventry city centre. 

Over the past two years, rail passenger numbers have risen faster in the Midlands than anywhere else in the UK. 

Coventry is one of up to 60 locations that could benefit from improved services, including Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Worcester and Wolverhampton. 

Due to the Midlands’ central position at the heart of the UK transport network, the programme is also nationally-significant, driving benefits as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle, Kettering and Sheffield.

It is also designed to reduce carbon emissions and encourage both passengers and freight off the roads and onto the railways.

Civic and business leaders are now calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to back Midlands Engine Rail, fund the next stage of its development (£45.5 million over the next three years), and to display the same enthusiasm for infrastructure investment in the Midlands as he has in the North.

Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine said: “In the Midlands, more people are travelling on the railways than ever before. We now need investment from Government to allow our people, businesses and infrastructure to reach their full potential and to drive a further boost in passenger numbers. 

“Midlands Engine Rail is essential in creating a more sustainable, productive and mobile Midlands. 

“Whether they live in Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Birmingham or Leicester, our communities deserve the opportunity to make greener choices, to access world-class education and to reach the widest possible variety of career opportunities. We must create a transport network that helps our businesses to grow, not holds them back 

“My message to the Prime Minister is clear; it’s time you made a long-overdue commitment to the future of our rail network. Ten million Midlanders are counting on you; invest in their futures, turn our vision into reality, back Midlands Engine Rail.”

Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Coventry station is the fastest growing outside London and we recognise its strategic importance for our residents, visitors and businesses. 

“It’s right that we campaign for more trains, more routes and more frequent services. In Coventry, we will also continue to demand that we maintain three express trains an hour between Coventry and London.

“If Coventry is going to continue to grow, then direct rail links to the major cities of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Newcastle will be really important. The fact that we don’t have these connections already is a major gap in our transport network.  Midlands Engine Rail will provide a step-change in rail connectivity; it must go ahead.”