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Transforming a Midlands town

One of the biggest success stories in the growth of rail passengers over the last 25 years has been seen in Rugby. The Warwickshire town, which originally grew on the back of the railways in the 19th Century, has seen remarkable changes in the last two decades.

The town’s booming local economy is in part based on its ideal location in the transport network, which has seen considerable improvement. From the introduction of the new Pendolino trains by Virgin Trains in 2004 to their very high‐frequency timetable in 2008, Rugby has gone from 15 to 25 services every day on the West Coast main line, with the journey time to London falling by 17% to just 48 minutes.

These improvements mean Rugby is now the only major town on the West Coast line where a trip to either central London or central Birmingham is less than an hour long. That has helped produce extraordinary growth, with passengers using Rugby station each year growing by 225% since 1997, from just over 750,000 to 2.5million today. As well as Virgin’s fast intercity services, the regional railway run by West Midlands Trains, also runs services to London and the intermediate stations, creating a wide array of journey options for travellers.

Even more remarkable has been the growth in season ticket users, for commuters regularly travelling to London, Birmingham, Coventry and beyond for work. The number of season ticket users is nearly five times higher, rising from 168,000 in 1997 to 836,000 today. This growth helped make the case for a major upgrade of Rugby station in 2008, with Network Rail adding two new platforms to handle the extra trains and passengers.

Rugby’s regional rail connections, on West Midlands Trains, and its position on the M1 and M6 motorways make it one of the best‐connected places in the UK. That’s why, even when the British Chambers of Commerce named Warwickshire the fastest growing area of Britain in 2018, Rugby’s local economic growth is 40% higher still. With an economy shifting from traditional engineering to modern transport and logistics businesses, the number of new businesses starting in Rugby is up by 30% in five years.

From the Victorian boom which first made Rugby into a town, to the boom of the last two decades which will see the population rise by 20% in the next twenty years, the railways have been at the heart of extraordinary growth in the town.

Rugby is just one example. Across the country, planned rail investments will secure almost £85bn of extra economic benefits and enable further investment, allowing towns and cities across the country to meet their local economic goals, creating jobs and attracting talent and investment to their regions.

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