Rail bosses reveal plans to connect Leicester to HS2 network
Rail bosses have revealed details of plans to connect Leicester to the controversial HS2 network.
Under plans revealed by the Government last week, a line for 225mph passenger trains will cut through north west Leicestershire as it runs between Birmingham and Leeds.
Critics of the £33 billion HS2 project, expected to be complete by 2032, immediately warned properties along the proposed route through the county, broadly along the A42, would be blighted and house values would tumble.
They said the county faced an "all pain and no gain" situation, because the nearest stop would be at Toton, between Derby and Nottingham.
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However, HS2 director Ian Jordan has told the Leicester Mercury there are plans to connect Leicester to the new station at Toton by upgrading the existing Midland Mainline freight track which runs from one to the other.
He said: "Toton will give us the biggest market in terms of passengers in the East Midlands, as it serves both Nottingham and Derby.
"To have a stop in Leicester is not feasible.
"Leicester railway station will be connected to Toton using the existing Midland Mainline as far as Trent Junction and then reconfigured lines to a new station at Toton. We anticipate two services per hour from Leicester to Toton."
He accepted passengers travelling from Leicester to London would continue to use the Midland Mainline to St Pancras, but said HS2 would cut the Leicester to Leeds journey time from nearly two hours to just over one hour.
Leicester's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, the city council's transport spokesman, welcomed the proposed link but questioned its worth.
He said: "While I would be happy with any additional connectivity, it would be no advantage to anyone travelling south.
"I am not sure it would help when going to northern cities other than Leeds."
He said he would much rather see the completion of the promised electrification of the Midland Mainline.
Network Rail said the long-awaited £515 million programme to electrify the Midland Mainline between Bedford and Nottingham would be completed between 2014 and 2019.
It said it would allow more frequent, reliable and quicker trains to run.
Sir Peter said: "I will believe it happening when I see the overhead cables going up."
While the Government insists HS2 will create thousand of jobs and boost the economy, it is feared it could wreck plans for a rail freight depot near East Midlands Airport, which would create 6,000 jobs.
The track is to pass under East Midland Airport in a tunnel, reemerging in the middle of a site earmarked for the freight depot.
Depot developers Roxhill and engineers from County Hall and HS2 met this week to see if there was a way both schemes could progress.
County council leader Nick Rushton said: "I wasn't at the meeting but I know it lasted a couple of hours and everyone has gone away to see if there is a way to save Roxhill.
"Regardless, of that, we still have the problem of it cutting up the county and all the damage it will do.
"We have two or three Governments to get through before it happens and it only takes one transport minister to decide we can't afford it and development will have bee sterilised for no reason.
"We had a positive preliminary meeting with Roxhill Developments Ltd and Leicestershire County Council.
"Discussions are at an early stage but we will continue to work with them to try to find a way to accommodate the proposal for a rail freight interchange with the Government's plans for HS2."