The Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, revealed in November, ditched the planned HS2 eastern leg high-speed railway line from Birmingham to Leeds, via a hub at Toton, in favour of local improvements, although the western Birmingham-Manchester leg remains.
But the Midlands Connect conference heard debate over the eastern leg is not over.
A new Strategic Transport Plan was set out at the conference, aiming to improve east-west transport links, recognise social mobility in travel and make the case for investment in projects to ‘level up’ the region.
Max Sugarman, public affairs director for the Rail Industry Association, asked whether transport links between Birmingham and Leeds were ‘dead’.
Maria Machancoses, Midlands Connect chief executive officer, said: “What today’s today and the Midlands is clear about, is to us the debate is not dead.
“We believe when it came to perhaps, the West Midlands into Manchester, there was a massive argument around capacity. When it came to the eastern leg, it was more about transformation or connectivity. At the moment, the links between Birmingham and Leeds are poor.
“The study I’m planning, that’s going to be hugely important not only for the eastern leg, but particularly for East Midlands colleagues.”
Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader, said: “The East Midlands is not one urban centre, it’s lots. Our jobs are in Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, but also the M1 corridor, also off the main stations around the East Coast Mainline.
“There’s a lot to be said for improvements and upgrades around Nottingham, Sheffield, the East Coast and how we link across the whole geography.
“In one way or another, there will be a decision and there will be a commitment to build or upgrade that connection between Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leeds.”
Andy Street, West Midlands mayor, said agreed upgrades to cut the journey time between Birmingham and Nottingham to less than half an hour were key.
He said: “It will happen eventually.
“The point here is why we had to defend the link to Nottingham. That is brilliant, frankly, 26 minutes to Nottingham.
“Once the spine is there, it can be extended at a time in the future that will happen.”