£515m electric line plan hailed
A warm welcome has greeted the news that Network Rail hopes to electrify the main train line from Leicestershire to London by the end of 2019 – cutting journey times to the capital to less than an hour.
The company made the announcement yesterday, as it unveiled a £37.5 billion plan to expand the country's railways in the period 2014-19.
The news followed a Mercury report last July that the Government had agreed to electrify the Midland Mainline, as the Leicester to London route is known.
Outlining a £515 million programme to extend electrification of the line between Bedford and Nottingham, which takes in Leicestershire, route managing director Martin Frobisher said: "Today, we have a diesel railway with ageing infrastructure. In just seven years' time we will be operating one of the most modern electric railways in Europe.
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"The overhead line will be constructed using the latest technology for reliability and efficiency."
Electrification will increase the average speed of services to London from 110mph to 125mph, and station improvements as part of the plan will see the straightening of the track at Market Harborough and the lengthening of platforms for longer trains.
The frequency of services will increase as a result of new signaling systems that will enable more trains to operate.
Mr Frobisher said: "Electrification plans will cut the cost of running the railway by up to £60 million every year and slash carbon emissions by 13,000 tonnes a year – equivalent to the annual emissions of 15,000 cars."
Deputy city mayor Councillor Rory Palmer said: "It would be excellent to see this work happen sooner than 2019.
"This upgrade will be an important boost to our local economy. The challenge now is to help county companies win contracts for work on the line."
County council leader Nick Rushton said electrification would "make the county more attractive for potential investors from the south east and make commuting quicker and greener".
He said: "It will also support international links, by creating a speedier service connecting to the Eurostar network at London St Pancras."
Harborough Rail Users' Group spokesman Steve Jones said members hoped the improvements in the Market Harborough area would be carried out as quickly as possible. He said: "It is inevitable the station will have to close for the work but we welcome the plans."
A spokesman for East Midlands Trains, whose franchise to run services from Leicestershire to London expires in 2015, said the changes would "deliver some improvements".
Network Rail's plan will need to be approved by the Office of Rail Regulation.