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Government-commissioned report on alternative to High Speed 2’s ditched eastern leg has Newark unlocking northern reaches as part of £18.7bn plan

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A government-commissioned report detailing an alternative to High Speed 2’s ditched eastern leg has Newark unlocking the northern reaches as part of an £18.7bn plan.

A rail campaigner said it was vital the plan was drawn to the attention of people locally so they could have their say on the future of rail provision.

Plans for HS2’s eastern leg, an enhanced rail scheme that aimed to create jobs and grow the UK economy outside London, were axed by government late last year.

Train Northgate Station. (4147470)
Train Northgate Station. (4147470)

A report compiled by global consultants Mott MacDonald warned that scaling back HS2’s eastern leg to Leeds would not would not serve the north or deliver benefits promised.

Detailing alternatives, it outlined plans to create the Newark Alignment, which would mean trains from Nottingham would be routed via a new train line through the Southwell area to link with the East Coast Main Line corridor.

The report suggested creating a new line east of Nottingham, crossing the East Coast Mainline near Newark.

It also talks about the electrification of existing routes that could see faster connectivity between Newark and Birmingham.

Roger Blaney, a Newark and Sherwood district councillor and lobbyist for rail improvements, claimed the scheme had been buried so to not appear as a criticism of the Department for Transport’s own Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.

Roger Blaney said: “We may think the reason this document, dated October 17, 2021, was delayed and slipped out quietly in the second half of January was because the government didn’t want a document criticising its Integrated Rail Plan.

“The timescale of these options isn’t spelled out, but one of them is to improve the Trent junction and the journey into Nottingham.

“It would also make the line out of Nottingham and towards Newark suitable for high speed trains as far as Lowdham, where a new line would swing off and be a true high speed line.

“If you were to look on a map you would anticipate it would run in parallel with the existing line and cut through Bleasby, by Morton, and then swing north of Southwell Racecourse and across the old Southwell railway line.

“Then, because of the East Coast Main Line and A1, it would need to be elevated between South and North Muskham, to run past Retford and Doncaster. It would take substantial investment.”

Mr Blaney said his understanding was that it was a scoping document, and a further detailed piece of work would follow.

“It’s important that we start a local debate about what we actually want to see in terms of rail enhancements,” Mr Blaney said.

“We need to ensure Newark does not lose out in terms of its connectivity to Newark or the north of England.”

The HS2 equivalent proposal comes amid fears that the Department for Transport’s Integrated Rail Plan would have a major negative impact on connectivity by rail north of Newark should new ideas not be embraced.

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