Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visited Mansfield today (Friday January 26)and defended the Government’s record on developing transport in the region.
He defended the decision not to electrify the East Midlands line but would not be drawn on the much-requested extension of the Robin Hood Line.
Mr Grayling also lent his support to Mansfield MP Ben Bradley who has recently been in trouble for controversial blogging comments.
He was speaking as he joined the embattled MP to look at traffic issues around the troublesome junction at Sainsburys before moving on to the A617 which is in the throes of redevelopment.
Chris Grayling explained the reasons for his visit: “This is all about Mansfield and its growth this is about ensuring Mansfield grows and develops and meets its potential.
“Ben and I have been planning to come to look at Mansfield for months to look at some of the transport challenges here.
“I am looking at local problems today and more broadly at how we bring better productivity to Mansfield.
“The things that make a difference are the smaller projects, the things that unlock a junction or create a bit of dual carriageway that eases pressures.
“Understanding the challenges makes it so much easier to focus where you need to spend your money
“If you look here in Mansfield where there is a lot of development taking place, a lot of new housing,
“That is why we have put another £2 billion in the budget to support housing development around the country, so that the infrastructure that is needed to make those new houses possible is there and can be provided and is funded.”
He added: “The thing about Mansfield and the old coalfield areas around is that they are really now starting to take positive steps forward. There are lots of new developments, opportunities and lots of new businesses emerging.
We need to make sure the infrastructure is there and so I’ve been talking to Ben about roads around Mansfield and Ben and Mark Spencer about the Robin Hood Line and seeing for myself what the local challenges are.
The development of new housing at Mansfield is clearly going to have a serious knock on effect on the immediately surrounding roads. We have put aside substantial extra money in the budget to allow the create of better infrastructure around the housing development areas.
“My message today to Ben and the county councillors is can you look at what the best solutions are so we can see how best deploy the money that is available for new infrastructure to make sure the road improvements that are necessarily are there.”
The East midlands electrification has been knocked back, the Robin Hood line keeps being kicked into the long grass - yet to many in the North and Midlands It seems the South of England gets lots and lots of resources
The minister said: “We have not stepped back at all from our modernisation plans for the Midland Main Line it is now undergoing the biggest modernisation since the steam age we’ll have faster journey times and brand new trains, straightening the line at market Harborough remodelling Derby station - there will be improvements all up the route.
“The thing that makes the difference to journeys is do you have a smart new train have you straightened the track and improved the signalling its not about the power supply .
“With the new generation of hybrid trains which we want in operation by 2021 is they can deliver faster journey times years earlier than what would otherwise have been the case and the flexibility new technology brings .
“We’re going to see bi-modal hybrid trains operating right across the network.
“This is where things are going its not about Midland Mainline being left behind but a new generation of trains which give you far more potential to vary your services.”
HS2 is coming through here but has no stations here. Some think the area is getting all the disadvantages and none of the advantages.
Chris Grayling said: “Toton is going to be one of the big hubs on the HS2 route .
“At the moment journey times to Birmingham are slow to Leeds are slow. HS2 will deliver better journey times from the East Midlands to the other major centres in the midlands and the north.
“I think it will lead to Toton becoming a major business and residential hub that will ripple out economic benefits across the east midlands and free ups pace in the existing network for more freight and more commuter trains and this
“This is a part of the country that doesn’t have that good a commuter rail service.
“If you take the express trains off and put them onto HS2 you have the opportunity to do far more locally on the railways as well.
“It creates more capacity for better shorter distance trains as well as on its own routes providing much better connections to places like Birmingham and Leeds.”
A push for an extension to the Robin Hood Line, has resulted in Mansfield’s MP lobbying Chris Grayling, with Sherwood MP Mark Spencer. The extension would take the line into Warsop, Edwinstowe and Ollerton, linking local people to new jobs at the former Welbeck and Thoresby Colliery sites, as well as boosting tourism in Sherwood Forest.
Mr Grayling said: “We are going to say more about the Robin Hood line shortly but my own view is when it comes to reopening railway lines I believe in this region and around the country there are routes we are going to need to bring back into use in the future.
“The Robin Hood line is one we are taking very seriously where we are going to do more work on it and if we can demonstrate there is real opportunity and passengers will come it is absolutely up there in the list of railway lines we are serious about potentially reopening.”
So was the visit a show of solidarity with one of his junior member of parliament who has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons?
He said: “I think if everyone was held to account for what they said when they were young then we’d all look pretty foolish.
“Ben is a good local MP he is what Mansfield needs a dynamic member of Parliament in a way that hasn’t happened for years.”