The number of rail journeys in Coventry and Birmingham has soared in the last five years underlining the need for more capacity which will be released by HS2, says transport boss Geoff Inskip.
Coventry topped the national list with biggest overall growth of any city with journeys up 30 per cent in the past five years, with Birmingham in fourth place with overall growth of 22 per cent, despite the economic downturn.
Geoff Inskip, chief executive of regional transport authority Centro, said the figures were proof of the escalating demand for rail travel and need for more rail capacity and the need for HS2.
“Demand for rail travel continues to escalate and this is not just about London, this is happening right here in the West Midlands,’ he said.
“HS2 will provide fast, direct links between our major cities, but critically it also releases capacity on our existing lines. This report demonstrates just how much we need these extra local and regional services and the sooner the better.”
The figures were released by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) which reported that British railways are at their busiest since the 1920s.
Coventry has seen business journeys increase by 48 per cent, while commuter journeys in and out of Birmingham have more than doubled in five years.
Mr Inskip said Centro had carried out research to understand how capacity released on existing lines by HS2 could best be used to maximise the benefits to the West Midlands region.
He said Coventry would benefit from improved rail services once HS2 is built with new local services to Kenilworth and Leamington Spa, improved cross-regional links to the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire and a half-hourly fast Intercity service to the growing business and employment centre of Milton Keynes – which recorded the second highest rise in journeys (26 per cent).
Under Centro proposals Coventry would retain a half-hourly fast Intercity service to London.
“We’re also pressing for direct services to mainland Europe which will mean passengers in Coventry and Birmingham could be in Paris and Brussels in less than three hours,” Mr Inskip said.
“Network Rail concluded that the West Coast Main Line would be full by the early 2020s, but the demand we are seeing already means this could well be a conservative estimate.”
Centro is also working with local authorities across the region to maximise the benefits of HS2 to the wider region through improved rail, Metro, rapid transit and bus links to the two high-speed rail stations.
Ten of the 14 cities with the highest growth between 2008 and 2012 are outside the South East.
The ATOC release can be viewed here.