By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
The future of high-speed travel from a potential hub in Toton hangs in the balance after reports the site will be left out of Government plans.
Several national media outlets reported over the weekend the Government is effectively “scrapping” Phase 2b of HS2’s Eastern Leg.
The Department for Transport has declined to comment on the reports.
The leg was touted to pass through Toton in Nottinghamshire on its route between Birmingham and Leeds – but will reportedly be replaced with two, separate high-speed lines in the north and Midlands.
The Times first reported contents of the highly-awaited Integrated Rail Plan, expected to be published in full on Thursday, which revealed the two lines will connect Sheffield to Leeds and Birmingham to Nottinghamshire.
This leaves about a 50-mile gap between the two lines that were initially planned to connect the Midlands to the North.
However, the reported link between the West and East Midlands would terminate at East Midlands Parkway, in Rushcliffe, rather than the proposed Toton hub.
This comes despite Nottinghamshire County Council investing more than £22 million allocating land for the hub, and despite approving a £30 million link road between Toton and Chetwynd.
The link road would unlock thousands of homes, jobs and create employment land across Broxtowe borough.
It has led to concern from Councillor Milan Radulovic (Lab), leader of the borough council, who believes national reports are a way of “softening the blow” ahead of a larger official announcement this week.
He says the reports put a “huge question mark” over the Toton hub, as well as overall ‘levelling up’ plans for the East Midlands.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I feel it’s a betrayal of what we’ve been led to believe, East Midlands Parkway would be a disaster and would bypass the region’s economy.
“It would severely undermine the plans for regeneration and levelling up of the East Midlands.
“I want to see the full report but I suspect it’ll be a watered-down version of the original plans.
“It puts a huge question mark over the viability of the Toton Masterplan, whether we can get jobs and private sector investment, and then we will have future generations to answer to.”
However, Cllr Ben Bradley MP (Con), leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and Mansfield MP, remains optimistic and believes the weekend’s reports offer a “really good deal” for the region.
“From an East Midlands perspective, what appeared in The Times this weekend was roughly a £10-£12 billion commitment to a full, high-speed line between Birmingham and the East Midlands,” he said.
“It doesn’t sound very ‘scrapped’ to me. If all that ties together and includes Toton – and we don’t know whether it does yet – then that sounds like a really good deal.
“Investing in Toton and the growth we can unlock is absolutely key and we have been pushing for that, and if it’s not in it, it will be really disappointing.
“But if it is, alongside all of the other things mentioned this weekend, it amounts to a lot of investment.
“The wider package of the Freeport, East Midlands Development Corporation, devolution, is starting to look like a lot of really good stuff happening at the same time.”
The Department for Transport moved to play down reports over the weekend, describing them as “speculation”.
A spokesperson told the LDRS: “Work is continuing on the Integrated Rail Plan.
“We will publish it shortly and do not comment on speculation.”
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is widely expected to announce the contents of the plan on Thursday (November 18).
The plan, which was first due in early 2021, will outline the Government’s plan on major rail infrastructure – including HS2 as well as Northern Powerhouse Rail.