Councillor Martin Rawson, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economy comments on the government’s recent decision to scrap electrification of the Midland Mainline;
“It is a snub to commuters across the East Midlands and will hamper regional economic growth.
Despite years of promises to the contrary and endless prevarication from Ministers, the Secretary of State for Transport announced last week that planned improvements to the line between London and Sheffield had been cancelled.
During the General Election campaign, Mr Grayling told Derby residents that electrification would happen ‘sooner rather than later’. But just a few weeks later he has pulled the plug.
What is more, the decision is another example of investment in regional infrastructure being neglected, while funding is pumped into London and the South-East.
Over the last ten years, the capital has received £15 billion of investment in the form of Crossrail, as well as countless other improvements to its transport network. And now the Secretary of State has backed a further £30 billion of investment in Crossrail 2, at the expense of electrification schemes across the Midlands, Wales and the North of England.
By comparison, upgrading the Midland Mainline was set to cost around £1 billion and would have delivered faster journey times and cleaner trains for the roughly 5 million people who live in and around Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield.
Instead, we will receive slower, more polluting, ‘bi-mode’ trains and a 70 mile gap in electrification between Kettering and Clay Cross. For many in the region, this is simply not good enough.
London is a global city and there will always be a natural attraction for large businesses, but our economy has been disproportionately weighted towards the South-East for too long. Infrastructure investment should be used to mitigate these disparities, not exacerbate them.
But national policy has done just that. A recent study by the IPPR North found that 54.2 per cent of UK transport spending is invested in London. In comparison, the East Midlands receives just 3.2 per cent.
Shockingly, this equates to £1,943 spent per person in the capital on current or planned projects, compared to £221 in our region – and these figures were published prior to the Government’s decision to cancel full electrification.
The East Midlands deserve better. Faster journey times from electrification would allow our businesses to expand in to new markets and residents to access wider employment opportunities.
In addition, connectivity is vitally important if Derby is to make the most of the opportunities presented by HS2. Without good connections to the planned station at Toton and elsewhere along the line, the wider economic benefits of the project won’t be realised.
We are strategically located at the heart of the country so it’s vital for our region’s future prosperity that we have fast and efficient travel both North and the South.
Together with other regional leaders and through the council’s representation on the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, I will be continuing to make the case for investment in the East Midlands’ transport infrastructure to the Government.
Derby has a proud railway heritage and continues to lead the way in hi-tech transport engineering. Moreover, our city benefits from any investment in our nation’s rail network, not least through providing the rolling stock that will run on the Crossrail line.
But it is it too much to ask that Derby has the infrastructure to match our history and our ambition? I don’t think it is.”