An MP has called on the Government to upgrade and electrify the ‘overlooked’ Midland Mainline in a bid to increase trains to London by 50 per cent and cut journey times by 14 minutes.
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone called for the railway line through Kettering, Wellingborough and Croby to be upgraded and overhead electric lines be installed in a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, June 13.
Mr Hollobone said: “The upgrading and electrification of the Midland Mainline would be of immense benefit to Kettering and to the East Midlands.”
He said passenger journey numbers on the line between London and Sheffield have increased almost 130 per cent from 5.8 million in 1996-97 to 13.2 million now compared to a 69 per cent increase nationally, and a further 28 per cent increase is expected in the next decade.
But the line has attracted only two per cent of the investment in other rail networks nationwide.
Mr Hollobone, who also raised the issue at Prime Minister’s question time that morning, said track improvements at three ‘pinch points’ at Leicester, Derby and Kettering-Market Harborough, such as lengthening platforms and straightening tracks, would increase the number of off-peak trains to London from two to three, including from Corby, and cut journey times from 62 to 48 minutes.
He said: “Upgrading and electrification will bring higher speeds, which will not only make the service more attractive and have a positive commercial benefit, but increase capacity to meet the increase in passenger numbers.”
He said the proposals, which the Government is expect to rule on in July, would generate £450 million of wider economic benefits to the East Midlands and reduce the annual costs of running the line by £60 million, meaning the project would pay for itself in just 10 years.
Mr Hollobone said: “Ours is very much the country’s overlooked line.
“I think the Midland Mainline’s time has now arrived.
“For what should be relatively little expediture, major improvements can be made to the line.”
Minister of State for Rail Theresa Villiers said: “Although the case for electrification looks good, it is a major undertaking with a significant price tag.
“Just electrifying the line is expected to cost more than £530 million. The further upgrades that many campaigners are asking for could add more than £100 million to that figure. The Government already have commitments to improve the rail network in the period up to 2019, amounting to some £5 billion.”
Responding to Mr Hollobone’s call for him to commit to upgrading the line, David Cameron said: “There is a large amount of support for the Midland Mainline electrification and the decision will depend on whether it is affordable and on assessing competing priorities, but I will listen very carefully, as I know the Treasury will too, to what he says.”