Train journey times between Leeds and major Midlands cities could be slashed under “game-changer” proposals for part of the HS2 project which could boost the economy by almost £1.5bn.
Proposals have been submitted to the Government and the independent HS2 review panel for changes to a key rail junction, halving travel times for Nottingham to Birmingham and Leicester to Leeds services.
The regional transport organisation, Midlands Connect, has said its proposals to alter the Toton East Midlands Hub station in Nottinghamshire, on the planned Leeds branch of HS2, could be less expensive than current thinking.
The business case, which has been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) and the recently-announced review panel, is estimating the economic benefit to be at least £1.4bn.
Sir John Peace, the chairman of Midlands Connect, called the plans a “genuine game-changer” for regional rail connections, adding that it is “absolutely essential” to the economy that HS2 is delivered in its entirety.
The plan would see hourly services operating between the new Birmingham Curzon Street station in the city centre and Nottingham, via the Toton hub, and also between Bedford, Leicester and Leeds.
As a result, the Nottingham to Birmingham journey time, currently 72 minutes, would be halved to 33 minutes, according to Midlands Connect. Leeds to Leicester travel time would also fall, from two hours to 46 minutes.
The plans have the support of council leaders in Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds, as well as Leicester’s mayor and business group the CBI.
Coun Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council and chairwoman of Core Cities, said: “HS2 is about much more than travelling to and from London.
“It will help connect cities such as Leeds and Sheffield with towns and cities all across the East Midlands and beyond, providing links by rail that are vastly under used at the moment because of how long journeys take.”
The proposal’s authors have said direct services would be made possible by using new conventional compatible trains which can travel on both the high-speed and electrified track.
The DfT has asked HS2 Ltd, which is delivering the high-speed rail project, to look at the feasibility of the alternative junction. The cost of implementing the services is estimated at £170m.
Sir John added: “Our proposals are a genuine game-changer for connections between the
East Midlands and West Midlands and on to the North of England, revolutionising the way regions do business with each other.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on August 21 that an “independent and rigorous” review will be conducted into HS2, which will be led by Douglas Oakervee.
It is set to report back by the autumn.