Passengers in Mansfield and Ashfield are being urged to tell the government what they want as part of an improved train network in the East Midlands.
But businesses in the region have expressed their anger that those improvements will not now include full electrification of the Midland Main Line to and from London.
The government’s transport minister Chris Grayling announced an upgrade of the network, which will include reduced journey-times and extra seats, to coincide with the East Midlands franchise being put out to tender.
The franchise, which stretches between London and Sheffield and from Liverpool to Norwich, is currently operated by East Midlands Trains. The new franchise begins in August 2019, and the government is keen that the winning company can work closely with Network Rail in delivering the kind of improvements passengers want. Hence a consultation, which will run for 12 weeks, closing on October 10 this year.
The next operator will also be required to run modern, fast, efficient and comfortable trains, including a new fleet of bi-mode (electric and diesel) trains. These, the government says, will be better for passengers than full electrification, which would be costly and lead to disruption. At peak times, journeys between Nottingham and London will be reduced by up to 20 minutes and the number of seats will rise by more than 1,000.
However, the East Midlands Chamber, which represents businesses, said the use of bi-mode trains was not good news. “The bi-mode trains will be heavier than existing stock, so we will have a worse service than we do now,” said chief executive Scott Knowles.
“There will be a stretch of track that won’t be electrified, and that doesn’t make economic sense. The East Midlands is being disadvantaged as a result of a London-centric focus on the rail network.”