ASHFIELD: Proposed link to HS2 line gets initial backing

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A proposed link between the HS2 and Robin Hood Lines that would provide Ashfield train passengers an alternative route to London has been given cautious backing by council chiefs.

Although the HS2 line has yet to be given the green light by the government at national level, an East Midlands Councils meeting has already discussed how they could capitalise on it locally.

One option is to open up the old mineral extraction line - that runs from just south of Kirkby down to the site of the proposed HS2 rail hub at Toton- to passenger trains.

That would increase travel options for a growing population in the area and help avoid over-reliance on travel by car.

It could also help to create jobs, with workers needed to convert the existing line for passenger travel and run a maintenance depot, which could be sited close by in Staveley.

But in its recommendations on the project, the council has also pointed out that travel on the new line - were it to come in to effect - could be slow.

“It could take 44 minutes to get from Kirkby to Toton,” said Ashfield Council leader Chris Baron.

“Our submission has included that there should be more stops added along the route to make it viable, but that obviously means it will slow the route down.

“However, in years to come, it will not necessarily be all about speed, but an emphasis on capacity and convenience.

“With transport squeezed as population increases, people will still want a seat on trains and this will provide an alternative option to going to London through to Nottingham.

“From a business point of view, there’s an argument that it could bring jobs from the south to the north, but you could also argue that it could also happen the other way around.

“As such, Ashfield is generally in favour of such plans, as are most authorities, but we have also registered our concerns.”

The HS2 project could take as long as 20 years to complete should it be approved and could cost between £40 and £50 million.

The idea of a link between the HS2 hub at Toton and the Robin Hood Line has been given the thumbs up by the mayor of Ashfield’s neighbouring authority, Mansfield.

Tony Egginton believes it can help towns in north Nottinghamshire become more attractive for regional offices of London-based companies.

He also says the link could also open up the possibility of reaching Amsterdam in four-and-a-half hours, should the Eurostar be extended further north, as has been mooted.

“It seems as though the HS2 is now going to get the go-ahead and we’d be keen to push for a link from the Robin Hood Line to Toton,” said Mr Egginton.

“It’s important that we add to the rail infrastructure in the Nottinghamshire area, particularly with the extra money now being put into it and the funding available.

“People are looking to commute and travel further afield, so we have to make sure the transport is right for them.”

“There is a lot to play for and while it might not be 2030 until HS2 is finished, we have to put ourselves forward now.”