A £9 billion investment in Britain’s rail network will create capacity for an extra 3,900 journeys into Birmingham every day, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on a visit to the West Midlands.
But business leaders said many of the announcements were overdue – and called for greater focus on improving transport links across the West Midlands.
Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced the transport proposals as they visited Birmingham and along with the rest of the Cabinet.
The pair appeared together at a carefully-staged press conference at a rail depot in Smethwick, where Mr Cameron attempted to put an end to speculation about the future of the coalition.
Some Conservative backbenchers have urged the Prime Minister to dump Mr Clegg and the Liberal Democrats and attempt to govern as a minority administration.
They oppose Lib Dem plans to reform the House of Lords – although these are also backed by Mr Cameron – and some Tories are angry that Liberal Democrats failed to support Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, when he was criticised for his relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s company NewsCorp.
But Mr Cameron warned it would be impossible to govern without a majority in the House of Commons, and said: “I am even more committed to coalition government, to making this coalition government, today than I was in May 2010 when Nick Clegg and I formed this government.”
The two parties would produce a report setting out their priorities up to the next general election, he said.
The announcement of £4.2 billion worth of new rail schemes, including electrification of the Midland Main Line, takes the amount to be invested in the railways between 2014 and 2019 to £9.4 billion, when added to £5.2 billion of already-announced projects.
Major rail investments to benefit the West Midlands will include the electrification of the Chase Line between Walsall and Rugeley, delivering faster local journeys into Birmingham.
The Nuneaton-Coventry-Leamington Spa-Oxford route will also be electrified as part of the “electric spine” to the ports of Southampton, delivering a high-capacity electric freight route which should benefit businesses in the West Midlands.
And there will be capacity for an extra 3,900 daily peak-time commutes into Birmingham with the addition of new carriages to Cross Country trains into New Street and London Midland trains into Snow Hill and Moor Street.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “Electrification in the West Midlands and upgrades around Birmingham show how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and fast-moving railway network that drives jobs and growth.
“These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are absolutely key to securing prosperity in the West Midlands in the decades ahead.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “From Crossrail, high speed rail and now the billions of pounds of investment we are announcing today, this government is committed to taking the long term decisions to deliver growth and jobs.
“In what is the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era this investment will mean faster journeys, more seats, better access to stations, greater freight links and a truly world class rail network.”
But Birmingham Chamber president Michael Ward said: “We have argued that there are a number of omissions from the announcement that could have significantly boosted the region and we call for a renewed focus on Greater Birmingham.
“The electrification of the Chase line, first mooted in the 1960s, is long overdue and has the potential to provide a great fillip for the region by improving journey times and enhancing capacity.
“While we appreciate that the £9 billion is for the entire country and that not all of the schemes have been announced, we feel that the Greater Birmingham area should have seen more investment.
“In particular the Chamber was disappointed to see no mention of the Walsall- Stourbridge line re-opening or Snow Hill capacity enhancements.”