Toton HS2 hub scrapped in favour of East Midlands Parkway and wider rail investment

Plans for a HS2 hub station at Toton in Nottinghamshire have been dropped in favour of the high-speed railway line going to East Midlands Parkway instead.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 12:24 pm

In a long-awaited Government announcement on altered plans for rail travel in the East Midlands and northern England this morning, there will be a new railway station in Toton – but it will not act as a high-speed hub for the multi-billion-pound HS2 project as originally planned.

HS2 lines will instead go to a new base at East Midlands Parkway, via a light railway track, similar to a tram.

It comes as part of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning, which revealed drastically reduced commitments to the Eastern Leg of HS2, linking Birmingham and Leeds, via the East Midlands..

An artist's impression of the planned HS2 high-speed railway route.

Members of the Conservative Government say the changes still amount to a massive investment which will dramatically improve transport and wider infrastructure in Nottinghamshire and the region, more quickly than HS2.

But critics say the changes mean Nottinghamshire will miss out compared with other areas and fear its economy could be left behind.

The HS2 high-speed rail project initially proposed a line from London to Birmingham, before breaking off into a ‘Y’ shape at the West Midlands city.

It would then travel towards Manchester, Phase 2a, and Leeds, Phase 2b, passing through the East Midlands at Toton on its route towards West Yorkshire.

Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader.

The first two phases have received an almost full commitment, but the Government’s announcement has confirmed plans to scale back the Birmingham-Leeds line.

Two smaller and separate high-speed lines will now be created, with one connecting Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway in Rushcliffe.

The second high-speed connection will be built between Sheffield and Leeds, leaving roughly a 50-mile black hole in the middle of what was planned to be a single HS2 line.

Initial Department for Transport projections suggested HS2 could reduce journey times from Toton to London down to just 51 minutes – at present, the quickest train from Nottingham to London takes almost two hours.

East Midlands Parkway Station.

Mr Shapps said the new line to Birmingham is expected to cut travel time between the two Midlands cities from 72 to 26 minutes.

However, concerns have been raised about the IRP omitting the Toton hub in favour of East Midlands Parkway.

Years of planning has gone into the Toton hub, with Nottinghamshire Council spending £22 million allocating land to unlock thousands of jobs, homes and employment space.

The authority also approved a £30m link road to serve the development plans earlier this year.

But despite not featuring in the high-speed plans, the Government has committed to investing in a railway station at Toton.

This will connect to the reopened Maid Marian Line – closed to passengers during the 1960s Beeching Cuts – to provide passenger connectivity with places like Kirkby, Selston and Pinxton.

It comes alongside a commitment to extending the Robin Hood Line to Warsop, Edwinstowe and Ollerton, a project long campaigned for by politicians, including Hucknall MP Mark Spencer.

This would connect with the Maid Marian Line in Ashfield to reach the Toton station, and eventually on to HS2 via the light rail connection.

Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader, believes the East Midlands has come out as the “big winner” from the IRP – despite previously saying ‘if the Eastern Leg of HS2 is scaled back or cancelled, the region will pay a heavy price’.

Mr Bradley said: “We’ve seen a massive commitment to the East Midlands.

“The commitment to a station at Toton has been a huge priority for us as that’s our hub to create tens of thousands of jobs.

“The package of transport links around it, with the Maid Marian Line, the Robin Hood Line, road links and tram links, will get people into those jobs.

“That’s a massive opportunity for us over the next eight-10 years to really boost people’s life chances in the region.

“It’s the start of our really positive package of the freeport, the development corporation and devolution, and amounts to £10 billion to £12bn investment into the region.”

The IRP also includes the full electrification of the Midland Main Line – between London St Pancras, East Midlands Parkway, Nottingham and Sheffield – to reduce journey times for passengers.

“This didn’t stop the Conservatives at County Hall taking a £22 million gamble buying land in and around Toton, on the basis the Prime Minister would keep a promise that has unravelled fast.

" I do feel some sympathy for Ben Bradley who has set out his stall on the successful delivery of HS2 to Toton and the associated economic benefits.

"Whilst he has failed in his first major hurdle, I don’t blame him for ambitiously flogging a dead horse.

"But the reality is any pleas clearly fell on death ears.”

“They talk about levelling up, yet this looks like it will further exacerbate issues in Nottinghamshire and put us further behind the rest of the UK.”

The DfT says its IRP will improve journey times and capacity ‘from London and across the Pennines’ and ‘strengthen connections between major cities in the North and Midlands’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This is the biggest transport investment programme in a century, delivering meaningful transport connections for more passengers across the country, more quickly – with both high-speed journeys and better local services, it will ensure no town or city is left behind.”

In total, the IRP will cost the Government £96 billion – including commitments to major infrastructure, local service upgrades and faster journeys – which ministers say will happen ‘up to 10 years earlier’ than originally planned.