Anger as Government refuses to commit to date on ‘vital’ Nottinghamshire rail project

The Midland Mainline, which runs through Nottingham, is seen as vital to the rail network. Picture: Phil Sandwell

The Government has been accused of breaking promises after it refused to give a date for a rail upgrade project seen as ‘vital’ for Nottinghamshire.

Local MPs and Network Rail want to see the Midland Mainline, which runs through Nottingham, electrified.

The upgrade, involving trains running on overhead power lines instead of fuel, would mean faster journey times between Nottingham, London and Sheffield.

It would also save train operators around £60 million a year, which they say could be invested back into the network.

But on Monday rail minister Paul Maynard refused to confirm whether the scheme would still go ahead and be finished by 2023 – a deadline promised by the previous Government last year.

The climbdown prompted an angry reaction from Nottingham MPs, who pushed for an answer on the issue in Parliament on Monday night.

Video: Network Rail video shows how electrification of the line will be completed

After the debate Nottingham South’s Labour MP Lilian Greenwood called the response “shameful” while Gedling Labour MP Vernon Coaker said the lack of backing was “not good enough”.

Mr Maynard said the Government was still committed to the project, but refused to repeat the promise of a 2023 completion when pressed by Ms Greenwood and Mr Coaker.

When asked if the exact timetable still stood, he said: “We are committed to the development of the ongoing electrification programme.”

His response drew shouts of “that’s a no then?” from the opposite benches.

The Conservative Government’s rail minister Paul Maynard faced anger from Notts MPs on Monday.

In the meantime, he said, Nottingham journey times would benefit from planned ‘long distance’ services to London which leave out commuter stops at stations including Kettering and Corby.

But he only confirmed a date for electrification between London and Kettering.

After the debate Ms Greenwood said: “Overall I am disappointed but I’m actually also pretty angry. Before the last election there was a promise made by people including the-then Prime Minister that electrification would be done by 2019.

“Just a few weeks after the election it was ‘paused’ and then ‘un-paused’ with a date of 2023, we now find out that all those promises were just as useless as the last set. I think it’s shameful.”

Nottingham City Council Leader Councillor Jon Collins called the Government’s response “incredibly disappointing”.

“If the Government isn’t prepared to commit to this rail investment which would bring faster, better trains to the service between Nottingham and London, how can we have confidence about their proposals for HS2 [the planned high-speed rail line].”

“If the Midland Mainline improvements weren’t to go ahead, it would prevent the integration of HS2 into the national rail network locally – so the full benefits which could include some high-speed trains serving cities in the region won’t be realised.

“If the Government is serious about rebalancing the national economy I would urge them to implement the electrification of the Midland Mainline as soon as possible as it just as important as HS2 as a driver to creating jobs, growth and business opportunities both in Nottingham and the wider East Midlands region.”

It is the latest setback for the scheme, which the Government committed to last year after previously delaying it as part of a review of spending.

Coun Alan Rhodes, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, previously said: “The Midland Mainline is vitally important to the East Midlands as a whole and the speed of the service is crucial to the economic viability of the region.”

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