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Nottingham Post
Nottingham Post
Oliver Pridmore

Call for quick action on HS2 as report says delays will cost East Midlands billions every year

Leaders have called for a clear timetable on HS2's arrival in the East Midlands as a new report claims each year of delay could cost the region billions of pounds. A Government minister reiterated the commitment to bring high-speed travel to the East Midlands Parkway station at Ratcliffe on Soar during an event in Derby on Monday (July 3).

The start of 2023 saw speculation that the East Midlands section of the national project may be scrapped, with the Government eventually confirming its commitment to this element of the plan. But a new report from the Transport for the East Midlands group calls for "tangible" progress to be made.

The first HS2 trains are expected to start carrying passengers in the East Midlands in 2033, with estimates the cost of the whole project will eventually reach £71 billion. The London to Birmingham route represents the first phase of HS2, whilst the second sees the route splitting off into a Y shape.

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Trains will head towards East Midlands Parkway on the eastern leg and then to Crewe and eventually Manchester on the other. All elements of the HS2 project were confirmed in the Government's Integrated Rail Plan, published in 2021.

But the Chair of Midlands Connect, Sir John Peace, told Nottinghamshire Live at Monday's event in Derby that 18 months on from this plan being published, progress was now needed. Sir John said: "What we're going to have to keep doing all the way through to 2030 and beyond is to keep reminding Government that this is the plan that we are all expecting to be delivered over that period of time.

"We've talked about freeports, we've talked about the fusion at West Burton. Unless you've got the transport infrastructure to support that, you're not going to leverage the opportunity that's out there.

"These are tough times in terms of financially getting the capital to do it, but don't just look at it as a cost. Look at it as an investment for the future."

The original plans would have seen an East Midlands Railway Hub being built in Toton, but the Integrated Rail Plan confirmed that much of HS2's eastern leg had been scrapped. The eastern leg would also have originally seen trains continue from the East Midlands Parkway to Leeds.

Sir John Peace (Nottingham Post)

Leaders at Monday's event made clear that they believed this element of the project should not remain off the table. Chris Hobson, the Director of Policy and Insight at the East Midlands Chamber, said: "Ultimately, the first plan we had was the one that we felt provided the biggest and best return, but the decision has been made to move away from that."

Also arguing the case for the original eastern leg to be delivered was Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, who said: "What happens between Parkway and Sheffield and Leeds? We haven't got answers on that yet.

"It's not necessarily the big money investment but from my perspective, HS2 is not about getting from A to B five minutes faster. It's about the growth and investment that comes around stations in particular, whether that's Parkway, Nottingham, Derby or Chesterfield."

Despite calling for the original plans to be delivered, those gathered in Derby on Monday all agreed that the pressing issue was to have the Integrated Rail Plan delivered in full and promptly. Transport for the East Midlands' report says that in terms of jobs available within 60 minutes of Nottingham, HS2 would see this increase from 90,000 to 160,000.

Overall, with the East Midlands currently having the lowest level of transport spend per head in the UK, the new report says HS2 would see areas such as Nottingham and Derby being able to access an economy worth £550 million within 90 minutes. Chris Hobson said: "High speed rail in many ways is the absolute worst name it could have been called because it's not about it being high speed, it's not even really about the rail, it's about what it enables.

"The railway is very much a means to an end, the end being more wealth for the East Midlands and greener communities." Committing to delivering the Integrated Rail Plan, Rail and HS2 Minister Huw Merriman said at the Derby event: "I want to ensure that the region which powered the first industrial revolution has the tools to power the next one."

The Midland Mainline would also be completely electrified under the Integrated Rail Plan, allowing HS2 trains to travel to areas such as Nottingham and Derby. Sir John Peace added: "The East Midlands was never joined up, it never came together in a single view, that's changed dramatically.

"We now have a pretty unanimous point of view throughout the East Midlands and with the West Midlands now. It makes it much harder for a Government to resist when you're getting the voices of eleven million people in the Midlands as a region."

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