Mike Rouse with Kevin Foster MP, Rail Minister

I have recently met with the new Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Kevin Foster MP, who was appointed by Prime Minister Liz Truss to cover rail, including HS2. Kevin knows the Midlands well, having been a Councillor and Cabinet Member on Coventry City Council in the past.

The meeting took place at Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last week and was an opportunity for me to lobby Kevin Foster MP on rail matters, opportunities coming out from HS2, and train station developments. The meeting was timely as the County Council’s Cabinet will be considering plans for a new train station in Redditch on 27th October 2022. Worcester’s Shrub Hill train station is also due for redevelopment, subject to a Levelling-up Fund bid.

I was pleased to be able to share with the Minister the County Council’s bold vision for Redditch Train Station, which will benefit from over £9m of investment from the Council and outlined to him the vision for Worcester Shrub Hill too.

I wanted to hear from the Minister what his department will be doing to help passenger demand numbers get back to pre-pandemic levels, which is important as we need to build train stations that are fit for the future. There are signs of hope, but not helped by regular strikes of the workforce. I hope these can soon be resolved. Kevin has his work cut out!

The meeting also looked at Worcestershire’s wider rail strategy. Kevin is an MP in the South West, so he will well understand the importance of links from Worcester to Bristol and beyond as a vitally important connection corridor. I also told him about the success of Worcestershire Parkway – numbers of passengers at this station are looking good with most of them heading up to Birmingham.

The meeting comes as part of my engagement strategy to work more closely with the Department for Transport. I have already met with the Bus Minister, Baroness Vere, on 22nd September where I set out my vision for more demand-responsive bus services in Worcestershire, along with increased financial support for key traditional routes and services.

In a letter to the new Secretary of State, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, following Active Travel England’s rating of the county I have invited her to Worcestershire to see the challenges related to improving active travel first hand.

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