Rail plan promises Chesterfield to London in 76 minutes but politicians say it's 'nothing new'

Future Chesterfield to London journey times of 76 minutes have been promised as more detail was revealed about the Government’s rail plans.

By Tim Paget
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 4:40 pm

Ministers announced £96bn of ‘new’ funding for the network last month in their Integrated Rail Plan – but faced a storm of criticism for scrapping the eastern leg of high-speed link HS2.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has now hailed the start of work to electrify the next section of the Midland Main Line – from Kettering to Market Harborough.

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said the announcement offered ‘nothing’ to the people of Chesterfield and north Derbyshire.

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The Government promises faster journey times from Sheffield and Chesterfield to London - but not before 2030.

“Once again the Government are trying to take the people of Chesterfield for fools asking us to celebrate electrification of a train line in Northamptonshire which was first promised in 2014; whilst failing on the promise to bring our rail infrastructure into the 21st Century,” the Labour MP said.

“The Midlands and north have been betrayed by the Government with the cancellation of the Eastern Leg of HS2 with Chesterfield in particular losing out.

"I expect that the Staveley Infrastructure Maintenance Depot is unlikely to go ahead costing hundreds of potential jobs and the area is set to lose millions in the economic growth that HS2 would have brought.”

Mr Perkins said the main benefit of HS2 was ‘always about increasing capacity not reducing journey times’.

“The truth is there is nothing that has been announced that will make any difference to our area in the foreseeable future, with even the hoped for Barrow Hill line overlooked in the recent announcements,” he added.

"The people of the Midlands and north were lied to at the last election to get this disastrous government elected.

"And I know that people of Chesterfield are tired of their broken promises, lies and failures.”

On a visit to Leicester, Mr Shapps said work on the Kettering to Market Harborough stretch would begin on Christmas Eve and lay the foundation for the planned upgrade of the historic railway to Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield.

Chesterfield to St Pancras would take around one hour and 15 minutes – a reduction of about 30 minutes on current East Midlands Railway timetables.

However, electric trains will not serve Chesterfield before 2030 and new trains set to be introduced next year will run on diesel power for much of the journey until then.

Councillor Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, agreed that it will be ‘many years’ before Chesterfield sees the benefit of the improvements.

"We’d like to work with the Government to see if the phases of electrification can be accelerated in order to maximise the benefits and make levelling up a reality,” Coun Gilby added

“Despite the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, there remain uncertainties around the future of rail in the Midlands and the north.

"The Government needs to finalise its plans and provide a realistic delivery schedule as any further delays will create the risk of losing vital investment.”

Mr Shapps insisted his plan would deliver improvements quicker than HS2’s eastern leg.

He said: “Under our plans, people won’t have to wait two decades for better services. This unprecedented investment will deliver better railways, sooner.”

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