By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
The Government has again reaffirmed its commitment to high-speed rail travel in the East Midlands and says no decision has been made on HS2’s eastern leg.
But the county council’s leader has admitted Whitehall is looking to save money on the Nottinghamshire leg, looking to maximise any benefit from the scheme.
It comes after media reports suggested over the weekend that the route, which would travel through the region towards Leeds, will be shelved indefinitely.
The Mirror and other news outlets reported Government plans to halt the leg, saving an estimated £40 billion from the HS2 budget.
It came following reports from a ‘Whitehall source’ stating the Government has “run out of cash” for the scheme.
But a spokesperson for the Department for Transport told the Local Democracy Reporting Service these reports are “all speculation”.
The department stressed no decision will be made on HS2’s eastern leg until after the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, due to be unveiled in the autumn.
The plan is expected to outline how Phase 2b, which could pass through Nottinghamshire at Toton, can be delivered to a “quicker timescale”.
The plan is also expected to reveal how the HS2 leg can link up with other major rail projects, including Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Connect.
The DfT spokesperson added: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 Phase 2b and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.”
But the media reports have caused some concern among councils and politicians in Nottinghamshire, with plans already in place for a Toton HS2 hub.
Nottinghamshire County Council previously approved a £30 million link road between the hub and Chetwynd, which will release thousands of homes and support the creation of jobs.
A Rail Needs Assessment reviewing travel across the region viewed last year that the Toton hub should be scrapped, opting in favour of an HS2 hub at East Midlands Parkway.
This option was supported in the past by Rushcliffe Borough Council, but county council leader Ben Bradley said last week he continues to push for Toton to be used “in some capacity”.
Commenting following this weekend’s reports, he added: “We’ve known for a while that the Government is looking to save money on the eastern leg of HS2.
“For our part, we need to keep trying to make sure that, whatever the eastern leg looks like, however scaled back it may be, Toton forms part of it.
“The passenger benefits to signing off the eastern leg are well known but, for Nottinghamshire and the whole region, our industry also relies on freight, logistics and transport.
“HS2 East is more than a railway line; it is fundamental to our vision for levelling up communities throughout our country.”
Work on the eastern leg was paused by Government last month ahead of the Integrated Rail Plan.