1. ITV Report

HS2: New proposals for HS2 route between East and West Midlands revealed

Credit: HS2 Ltd

Current train journey times between major Midlands cities and Leeds could be slashed under "game-changer" proposals for part of the HS2 project.

Plans have been submitted to the Government and the independent HS2 review panel by regional transport organisation, Midlands Connect.

It suggests changes to a key rail junction, halving travel times for Nottingham to Birmingham and Leicester to Leeds services.

Midlands Connect said its proposals to alter the Toton East Midlands Hub station in Nottinghamshire, on the planned Leeds branch of HS2, could be less expensive.

It estimates the economic benefit of the new proposals to be at least £1.4 billion.

Toton Sidings Credit: ITV Central
  • What are the new proposals?

The new proposals would see alterations to the Toton junction, sited between Nottingham and Derby, which is currently contained as part of Phase 2 of HS2.

It 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.

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.

Passengers would use the existing travel network to get to Toton, in Broxtowe, before changing to an HS2 train or vice-versa.

Midlands Connect said direct services would be made possible by using new conventional compatible trains which can travel on both the high-speed and electrified track.

More than half of the estimated economic benefit, coming from travel time saved and the boost to cities' businesses through closer transport links, would come to the East Midlands, Midlands Connect said.

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 £170 million, including the junction and upgrades to the line.

Securing the proposed Bedford-Leeds service would mean investing in electrification of the Midland Main Line, north of Market Harborough in Leicestershire.

For the Birmingham to Nottingham service, it would mean similar upgrading of the line, west of Nottingham.

Toton sidings Credit: ITV Central

"Now we have more clarity over the costs and timescales of HS2, is it time that the true benefits of high-speed rail are also fully understood to make sure the project goes ahead in its entirety. "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 and demonstrating that HS2 will spread the economic benefits far beyond the cities with a dedicated station.

"We are sending a strong message to the Government that delivering HS2 in its entirety is absolutely essential to the future economic success of the whole of the UK."

– Sir John Pearce, chairman of Midlands Connect
Credit: HS2 Ltd

Just last week, it was revealed just last week that the chairman of HS2 had doubts about the budget and completion date.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said costs have risen from £62billion, to between £81billion and £88billion, and that the project could face a five year delay - with Phase 1 opening between 2028 and 2031.

The first stage of the line, running from London to Birmingham was initially scheduled to be finished by 2026. This has now been revised to as late as 2031.

Phase 2b, running from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester is now expected to take as long as 2040 to complete, seven years later than the previous delivery date of 2033.

The firm says the entire project could cost as much as £78 billion in 2015 prices (or up to £88billion in 2019 prices) - up from the previous budget of £55.7 billion set in 2015.