Leicester to London in just 60 minutes with £500m plan to electrify the Midland Mainline
The Government is today expected to announce it will electrify the Midland Mainline – which would put Leicester less than an hour away from London by train.
The £500 million project to electrify the line from Bedford to Sheffield is understood to be part of a £9 billion national package of rail improvements, set to be unveiled.
Campaigners who have fought for years for the electrification of the route say it will lead to faster trains, more local jobs and massive investment in the county, as well as being better for the environment.
"This brings lots of benefits and there is no downside," said Nick Rushton, acting leader of Leicestershire County Council.
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"It will mean cleaner, faster and more reliable trains with new rolling stock and Leicester will start to see the benefits Market Harborough currently has from being within an hour of the capital."
He said he expected more people with London jobs to move into Leicestershire, boosting the economy and pushing house prices up.
"We don't know whether there will also be improvements to the platforms in Leicestershire, but there is bound to be more Government investment,'' he said.
Martin Traynor, managing director of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said businesses and the job market would benefit.
"This is excellent news," he said. "The opportunity to reduce the journey time between Leicester and London to under one hour will give us a huge strategic advantage.
"It will increase leisure and tourism and inward investment. This could bring thousands of new jobs."
The expected announcement would mean the current fleet of diesel trains being replaced with electric ones with overhead wires extended along the rest of the line. It would reduce journey times from Leicester to London from 70 minutes to less than an hour.
It has not yet been revealed when the work will start or when it will be completed.
Leicester's deputy city mayor, Rory Palmer, said: "This is great news for Leicester. We have been campaigning alongside MPs and businesses, making the case for this investment. Electrification will improve journey times to London and to the north. It will create jobs and will be an important boost to our economy."
Terry Kirby, chairman of the Leicestershire branch of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "It's about 15 years too late, in my opinion.
"The benefits of electrification is that the trains will be less polluting and will be able to brake and accelerate more rapidly, making journey times quicker. With trains completing their journeys faster you can get more services on the same amount of track."
The only bad news, he said, was that the massive project will probably take several years to complete.
John Forrest, 72, from Hinckley, who regularly travels north on the Midland Mainline, said: "It should make a big difference and be a good thing, as long as it doesn't mean they charge a premium.
"They've been talking about doing this for a long time and I thought it would have happened sooner, but any progress is good."
David Morgan, 40, of Stoneygate, Leicester, said: "It sounds good. If it's quicker and it's cleaner it can't be bad.''