£ 100million rail upgrade could return direct connections between Coventry and Leicester and Nottingham stations

Political leaders hailed plans which could see the return of direct rail services between Coventry and the East Midlands for the first time in 20 years.

A new report suggests direct links could be established between the city of the West Midlands and Leicester, Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway and Nottingham within four years.

And he said the move would cut travel times by about a third.

For a long time, the low level of service between the East and West Midlands has been criticized.

But a report from Midlands Connect promotes plans for direct rail links between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham, as a “unique opportunity” to better connect the three big cities.

It comes weeks before the planned release of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, setting out the program for the next 30 years of rail transport and outlining government spending in the Midlands and North.

Plans from Midlands Connect – the transport partner of the Midlands Engine – suggest adding two million more seats to the region’s rail network each year.

They also suggest two new trains per hour, also stopping at Loughborough and East Midlands Parkway, made possible by a new ‘dip’ at Nuneaton, alongside plans to improve line speed along the route.

Currently, passengers must change trains and platforms at Nuneaton.

Midlands Connect said the downside means only 3% of journeys between Coventry and Leicester are made by rail, compared to 30% of journeys between Coventry and Birmingham.

He said the suggested changes would cut journey times from Coventry to Leicester from 54 to 38 minutes and from Coventry to Nottingham from 108 minutes to 70 minutes.

More people using the train – which Midlands Connect says produces 80% less CO2 than car journeys – would also help meet the net zero targets.

Subject to funding – with costs estimated at between £ 90m and £ 100m – the first trains could run as early as 2025.

Midlands Connect is now hoping to get the green light to take the plans to their next stage of development, creating a business case before the end of next year.

Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “I can’t think of two UK cities other than Coventry and Leicester which are so close but so terribly connected by rail.

“At the moment, it can take up to an hour and 20 minutes to travel less than 40 km, and passengers have to change trains halfway through – it’s just not enough.

“Given this, it’s no wonder 97% of the trips on this route are by road.

“By reintroducing faster direct connections, we can encourage more people to travel sustainably, strengthen working relationships and increase productivity. We must now move forward to create detailed delivery plans, with government support. “

Coventry City Council Chief Councilor George Duggins said: ‘There is no other way to look at it – here we have a missing link, a really important link between the east and the West Midlands, and this is an opportunity to reforge it.

“These plans will open Coventry, its jobs, leisure destinations and universities to communities in the East Midlands and vice versa.

“At the moment, the East-West Midlands rail links are sub-standard, which is holding us back from a more productive and sustainable future.

“Turning these plans into reality is an essential step in boosting prosperity and the use of public transport in our region – let’s go.”

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