‘A lot of positives’ in £96bn transport plan, says Midlands Connect chief

The head of regional transport body Midlands Connect has welcomed today’s £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan from the Government, saying there are “a lot of positives” in it.

Chairman Sir John Peace was broadly upbeat about Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ statement to the House despite the fact that HS2 will now no longer be built between the East Midlands and Yorkshire and a new HS2 station will not be constructed in Toton(see full statement below).

Among the measures are new services from the HS2 line directly into Nottingham city centre while the Midlands Rail Hub plans has been given backing.

This is set to bring improvements to services in suburban Birmingham and between key cities such as Coventry and Leicester and to Hereford and the South West.

But Toton will get a smaller station than was planned while HS2 will travel into the existing East Midlands Parkway facility.

Sir John said: “Today’s announcement gives businesses and local leaders the reassurance they’ve been waiting for – that HS2 is coming to the East Midlands.

“Although these plans are different in some respects to what we’d expected, there are a lot of positives in here and lots of things to be excited about – a new high-speed connection between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway, direct links onto HS2 for Derby, Nottingham, and Chesterfield and a commitment to the Midlands Rail Hub.

“Now that we have certainty, we must focus our efforts on delivery. Our challenge to Government is simple – it should move as quickly as possible to get spades in the ground and bring benefits to local people sooner.”

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You can see our live blog on today’s Integrated Rail Plan here

The full statement from Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect

On the Integrated Rail Plan

“Today’s announcement gives businesses and local leaders the reassurance they’ve been waiting for – that HS2 is coming to the East Midlands.

“Although these plans are different in some respects to what we’d expected, there are a lot of positives in here and lots of things to be excited about – a new high-speed connection between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway, direct links onto HS2 for Derby, Nottingham and Chesterfield and a commitment to the Midlands Rail Hub.

“Now that we have certainty, we must focus our efforts on delivery. Our challenge to Government is simple – it should move as quickly as possible to get spades in the ground and bring benefits to local people sooner.”

On Midlands Rail Hub

“We welcome the Government’s words and its commitment today to the Midlands Rail Hub. We now need to redouble our efforts and move this project from planning to delivery.

“During the last five years, Midlands Connect has worked tirelessly to support the Government in making our flagship project a reality and today’s news is another important milestone.

“These improvements will create space for millions more passenger seats on the railway every year and provide a step-change in connectivity to Birmingham Moor Street station, opening up access to HS2 for communities in Hereford, Worcester and Bristol via the new Curzon Street station being built next door.

“The Midlands Rail Hub will also increase capacity for rail freight, supporting our programme to create for over one million lorries’ worth of freight to be moved onto our railway every year.”

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On new station for Toton

“These proposals mean that delivery of a new train station for Toton can start today. I believe this provides much-needed certainty to investors and will help kick-start the ambitious regeneration proposals in the area.

“The plans around Toton, the adjacent freeport and the wider Development Corporation could create 84,000 jobs and add billions in value to the regional economy – the developments cover the size of three Olympic Parks.

On western Leg of HS2, Crewe to Manchester

“The Government’s commitment to HS2’s Western Leg is fantastic news for the Midlands, confirming our hopes that this vital north-south link will go ahead in full.

“Now we have the green light, it’s essential that we maintain momentum, get a clear timetable for the delivery of this part of the project and bring forward the necessary legislation in Parliament to make it happen.

“This will mean that we can release capacity at stations like Stafford and Stoke. This means the benefits of HS2 will be felt by hundreds of thousands of people across The Potteries and Staffordshire, including passengers that never set foot on a high-speed train.”

On East Coast Mainline at Newark

“This is most welcome news. The flat crossing at Newark is a huge bottleneck that limits our ability to improve rail services for local people.

“Upgrading this junction, as included in the package of enhancements to the East Coast Mainline, will allow us to better connect Nottingham, Lincoln and other regional hubs.”

BusinessLive – West Midlands