THE Member of Parliament for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant, asked the Prime Minister today (Wednesday 9 January) whether the existing freight line between Lichfield Trent Valley station and Burton could be upgraded to relieve congestion on the busy A38 trunk road.
Commenting afterwards Michael says: “Stations could be added to serve Alrewas and the National Memorial Arboretum, Fradley and Barton under Needwood. They would provide a direct connection with Birmingham and beyond on the cross-city line. It would transform people’s lives as commuters to Birmingham from as far afield as Derby will no longer need to use the congested A38.
“I have already discussed this matter with Chris Grayling the Transport Secretary and with Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, the managing director of West Midlands Trains. I now hope that the Metro Mayor of the West Midlands, the local enterprise partnerships, and Midland Connect will all work together with local authorities to see this much needed upgrade happen.”
The full exchange between Michael Fabricant MP and the Prime Minister during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions was this:
Michael Fabricant: What discussions she has had with the Mayor of the west midlands on the creation of employment in that region; and if she will make a statement.
The Prime Minister: I was pleased to meet the Mayor of the west midlands last October, when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I visited the Kings Norton headquarters of adi Group and saw at first hand the opportunities that apprenticeships can afford. That is why we are seeing annual investment in apprenticeships double to nearly £2.5 billion by 2020. It was also an excellent opportunity to see a successful west midlands company doing its bit to give young people a career. I am pleased to say that the latest statistics show employment in the west midlands has risen by 276,000 since 2010.
Michael Fabricant: That is fantastic news, but I think the Prime Minister will agree with me that transport is also key to employment. I want to raise the question of the rail line that lies between Lichfield and Burton, which is currently used only for freight. It passes the National Memorial Arboretum, which gets about half a million visitors a year, but at the moment they all have to come by road, along the busy and congested A38. May I ask the Prime Minister that this rail line be upgraded to a passenger service, providing a valuable east-west connection from Birmingham? Would she also allow me to take her personally around the National Memorial Arboretum?
The Prime Minister: I of course recognise the important role that transport links play in relation to prosperity and economic growth. Our rail strategy, “Connecting people”, which we have published, actually does look at how we can restore lost capacity where that unlocks housing growth, eases crowded routes, meets demand and offers good value for money, of course. It is for local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to determine whether a new station or train service is the best way to meet local transport needs, but we work closely with local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to take forward the schemes that they are interested in progressing.
In relation to the arboretum, I will, of course, consider a visit in the future, and I think my hon. Friend has probably given me an invitation it is very difficult to refuse