Nottinghamshire councillors urged to ‘keep up the pressure’ over future rail investment
Pressure must be kept up on the Government to make sure rail investment in the East Midlands is increased, according to a leading body.
Leaders were urged to continue to make the case for electrifying all the Midland Main Line, and Robin Hood Line, and ensuring the plan to bring HS2 to the East Midlands is not scrapped.
The leaders of Nottinghamshire County Council were briefed by Stuart Young, the executive director of East Midlands Councils, on what can be done to encourage investment in major rail infrastructure projects.
The East Midlands currently has the lowest rail infrastructure per head in the UK, the meeting was told.
It comes after the Government reversed its decision to electrify all of the Midland Main Line – which runs from Nottingham to London – and to electrify smaller parts of the line north and south of Nottingham.
The Government says it will introduce ‘bi-mode trains’, which can run on electricity or diesel.
The meeting also heard calls for the Government to look closely at electrifying the Robin Hood Line, which runs from Nottingham to Worksop via Mansfield, and re-opening parts of the line which are currently not used by passenger trains.
Later this year, the contract to run trains on the East Midlands network will be awarded to one of three bidders – Arriva Rail, Stagecoach or Abellio.
The winner of the contract will be obliged to publish a business case into reopening parts of the Robin Hood Line which are currently only open to freight trains within a year.
Mr Young said: “It’s up to us as a region to make sure that our cases are as robust and convincing as possible.
“We need to keep the pressure up and increase the pressure, and be really confident that the business cases we are putting forward are as strong as they can be.
“We have to try to narrow the time period where there is a great big gap in the East Midlands where there are no (electrified) cables overhead for electric traction.
“We do need to keep the pressure up, part of that is political, part of it is being really confident that the business cases all stack up and actually become stronger, not least with HS2 and interconnectivity.
“In terms of the East Midlands rail franchise, the Midlands Main Line gets a lot of the attention because it’s the spine going from north to south, but our ambitions are all around east to west, and we’re talking about that with the prospective bidders.
“You have my guarantee we will continue to work with the prospective bidders and the announced bidder, because the investment that it would release is very clear.”
Alan Rhodes is the leader of Labour at the county council, and said: “It seems to me a nonsense they are doing the electrification piecemeal.
“We are neatly leapfrogged over in this strange strategy of electrification.
“I do think we have to keep the pressure up on this, because we’re an important region, and we are missing out, so we need to be keeping all the pressure on that we can.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We are investing in the biggest upgrade of the Midlands Main Line since it was completed in 1870, leading to faster intercity journeys for more passengers on brand new trains.
“The investment will fund a brand new fleet of bi-mode trains, able to run on both electricity and diesel, from 2022.”