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Railways: Regional Planning Assessments

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

Today the Department for Transport has published the West Midlands regional planning sssessment for the railway (RPA), the third in a series of 11 RPAs covering England and Wales. The West Midlands RPA covers the whole of the West Midlands region.

RPAs are the key link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both government and the rail industry and are designed to inform the development of the Government's strategy for the railway. They look at the challenges and options for development of the railway in each region over the next 20 years, in the wider context of forecast change in population, the economy and travel behaviour. An RPA does not commit the Government to specific proposals. Instead it sets out the Government's current thinking on how the railway might best be developed to allow wider planning objectives for a region to be met, and identifies the priorities for further development work.

The area covered by the West Midlands RPA hasa population of just over 5.3 million of which2.5 million live in the West Midlands conurbation centred on Birmingham. While population levels are not expected to grow significantly, structural changes in the type of employment available and greater prosperity are expected to lead to more trips being made. Growth in rail passenger journeys is forecast for the region and it is expected that there will be particular growth in longer distance journeys, especially to London, and commuting to central Birmingham.

Planning for railways in the West Midlands needs to take into account a changing economic and social context set out in the regional spatial strategy and regional economic strategy. I am particularly grateful for the contribution made to the development of the RPA by the regional assembly, Advantage West Midlands, local authorities and others.

The RPA clarifies the role of the railway in the region, its contribution to the economy and its place in the overall transport system, setting out where greater rail capability and capacity will be needed over the next 20 years, and the options for responding to that need. The focus of the RPA is making better use of the existing network but it also draws attention to the need to improve access to stations, including interchanges, and the expected need to increase train capacity to meet forecast growth in demand.

Copies of the document have been placed in the House Library.