Rail electrification delay 'may be costly'
Millions of pounds of investment and new jobs could be held up because of a delay in electrifying the Midland mainline.
Business leaders fear big employers could shelve plans to relocate to Leicester after it was announced high-speed trains to and from London might now be more than a decade away.
Gordon Brown has announced that electrifying the Midlands line has been put back in favour of the much more expensive Great Western route, running from the capital through South Wales.
Network Rail had initially said there was a good chance the Midlands track would be included. A super-fast link with the capital was set to provide a vital boost to £3bn of redevelopment in Leicester, including attracting Government offices and big businesses.
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Improved services are also central to making Leicester railway station the centre of a £150m office and leisure development.
Offices, shops, bars and restaurants, car parking and a new civic square have been earmarked for the area, creating 2,800 jobs.
Electrification would allow trains to travel at up to 200mph, halving the current 75-minute journey time from city to city.
It would have made it quicker to commute from Leicester into London than from parts of the capital itself.
Trains to the capital could soon be below the hour mark anyway, but with electrification would be even faster.
Leicester South MP Sir Peter Soulsby said: "It is a blow. In the next few months we must get assurances that the Midland mainline will be included in the next phase of electrification.
"I will be using my place on the Commons transport committee to get answers from ministers and ensure money is there for more electrification.
"It has a compelling case for improvement because it would pay for itself in terms of the amount of money it would bring into the area. We will continue to fight for this."
Market Harborough, Loughborough and Parkway Station, near East Midlands Airport, were also set to benefit.
The Department for Transport told the Mercury the Great Western line needed upgrading sooner and could not say when the Midland mainline would be reconsidered.
Councillor David Parsons, leader of Leicestershire County Council and chairman of the East Midlands Regional Assembly, said: "It is extremely disappointing and we will not take this lying down.
"We met with Network Rail recently who said there was a good chance this would be included and then we get this announcement. We want to know why.
"This has serious economic implications for Leicestershire and the region. We will be the fastest-growing area in the coming years but they still refuse to electrify our railway line."
David Hughes, chief executive of economic development agency Prospect Leicestershire, said electrification needs to be done within seven years.
"The improvements around the railway station stands alone from this issue, although improving journey times would greatly enhance its attractiveness," he said.
Network Rail pencilled in a provisional timetable for electrifying the Midland mainline in May, and an initial survey showed electrification was viable.
It would cost at least £130m, much less than the £1bn London to Wales route.