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Proposed new East Midlands rail link praised by region’s city leaders

Leicester train station from London Road

PLANS for a new rail connection linking Leicester and Coventry have been praised by council leaders in both cities as a once in a generation chance to improve transport links in the region.

The new report by Midlands Connect sets out plans to reinstate direct rail services between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham for the first time in two decades, creating over two million extra seats on the region’s rail network every year.

The proposals would cut journey times between Coventry and Leicester by 30 percent, and between Coventry and Nottingham by 35 percent.

The improvements would introduce two new trains each hour, also calling at Loughborough and East Midlands Parkway, made possible by a new “dive under” at Nuneaton, creating space for these services to pass through the area, alongside plans to improve line speed along the route, making journeys faster.

The report comes ahead of the expected publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, which in the coming weeks will set the agenda for the next 30 years of rail travel and outline Government spending in the Midlands and north of England.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “I can’t think of two UK cities other than Coventry and Leicester, that are as close, yet so appallingly connected by rail.

“At the moment it can take up to an hour and twenty minutes to travel less than 25 miles, and passengers have to change trains half-way – it’s simply not good enough. Given this, it’s no wonder that 97 per cent of trips on this route are made by road.

“By reintroducing faster, direct connections we can encourage more people to travel sustainably, strengthen working relationships and increase productivity.

“We must now move ahead to create detailed plans for delivery, with the support of Government.”

Subject to funding, with costs likely to be in the region of £90-£100million, the first trains could run as soon as 2025, bringing benefits of over £170million to the local economy.

The next stage would see Midlands Connect bringing the plans to their next stage of development, creating an outline business case for the project by the end of next year.

From over 3,000 people in and around Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham questioned by Midlands Connect, 87 percent supported such improvements going ahead.

Passengers currently travelling along the corridor have to disembark at one station, change platforms and board another, culminating in a slow, inconvenient service.

As a result, only three percent of journeys between Coventry and Leicester are made by rail, compared to 30 percent of trips between Coventry and Birmingham, which enjoys a regular, fast and direct rail connection.

Journey times along the route will be cut significantly, with trips from Coventry to Leicester falling from 54 to 38 minutes, while train journeys from Coventry to Nottingham will come down to 70 minutes from 108 minutes. Loughborough and East Midlands Parkway would also have new, direct and more frequent links to Coventry.

To reach its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, the UK must reduce emissions by 100 percent compared to 1990 levels – however, transport emissions have fallen by just five percent over the last 30 years.

The proposals would significantly increase the number of intercity journeys made by rail, which produces 80 percent less carbon dioxide than travelling by car.

Coventry City Council leader, Cllr George Duggins, added: “There’s no other way of looking at it – here we have a missing link, a really important link between the east and the west Midlands, and this is our opportunity to reforge it.

“These plans will open up Coventry, its jobs, leisure destinations and universities to communities across the East Midlands and vice versa. At the moment the Midlands’ east – west rail connections are sub-standard, holding us back from a more productive and sustainable future.

“Turning these plans into reality is an essential step in boosting prosperity and public transport use across our region – let’s get on with it.”

An online question and answer session is due to take place at 3pm on Thursday, May 27, the opening address of which will be delivered by Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, and which will include a briefing on the plans.

To sign up for the event visit here.