BREAKING NEWS: Extra £20.3m cash boost to include electrifying mainline at Harborough

Market Harborough's train station, off St Mary's Road
Market Harborough's train station, off St Mary's Road

A £20.3million expansion plan for the county’s Growth Deal announced today (Thursday) includes a significant cash boost to upgrade Market Harborough’s train station.

The Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has agreed an expansion to its Growth Deal with the Government that will see an extra £20.3m invested in the county between 2016 and 2021.

This is in addition to £80m of funding committed by the Government last July.

Over the lifetime of the deal, the LEP estimates that up to 3,000 new jobs could be created, 1,300 new homes built and the potential to generate £160m of public and private investment.

The additional proposed projects include improvements to the Midland Mainline at Market Harborough railway station, off St Mary’s Road, and electrifying the rail track.

It will fund a ‘significant’ station upgrade and rail track improvements at Market Harborough which the LEP says will “improve journey times to and from London”. It will also include upgrading the disabled access at the station.

The electrification of the mainline will reduce running costs, energy use and carbon emissions.

The amount of money to be spent in Market Harborough has not yet been confirmed.

The Growth Deal is part of a long-term plan to devolve at least £12 billion of funding from central Government to local economies.

It aims for every part of the country to be “a motor of growth for the national economy”.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Giving local communities the power and the money to unlock growth and development and make the spending decisions that work for them is a key part of our long-term economic plan to secure a brighter future for Britain and ensure a recovery for all.

“And this is happening right across Leicester and Leicestershire, with more money announced today for key projects to boost the local economy as part of the multi-million pound expansion of the Government’s Growth Deals.”

The Institution of Civil Engineers’ in the East Midlands welcomed today’s Growth Deal announcement and the inclusion of investment in the Midland Mainline at Market Harborough.

Not only will it provide station facilities fit for the 21st century including full disabled access, but it will also reduce the journey time for trains between Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and London, and enable better timetabling of services in the future, the institute said.

In its recent State of The Nation report, the ICE called for the longer term planning of infrastructure investment, and this is an excellent example of the benefits that planning can achieve, it said.

However, it says that it will be “critical” to complete the improvements to the track alignment and congestion pinch points before overhead cables are installed.

A spokesman for the ICE said: “It is the track realignment, such as that now committed to at Market Harborough, and the works already announced to remove the congestion pinch points at Leicester and Derby stations which unlock the shorter journey times.

“The likelihood of those progressing would be much less after the overhead lines have been installed due to the additional cost and travel disruption.”

Nick Pulley, chairman of the LEP, said: “This additional £20.3m funding will boost our total Growth Deal funding to in excess of £100 million.

“This is by far the biggest capital regeneration fund to be received in Leicester and Leicestershire to date.

“This will be a crucial addition to the development of our local economy. Importantly, it will enable five new strategic economic projects to be kick-started, which between them, are set to generate up to £80m private sector leverage and create over 1,200 new jobs over the next six years.”

Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier also welcomed the news and said: “This over £20m of extra funding is welcome news for my constituents.

“Crucially, decisions on how this money is spent are being made by local people who are best placed to ensure it makes a real difference.

Projects like the line and station improvements at Market Harborough will help bring growth and prosperity to our area.

“This Growth Deal is a key part of the long-term economic plan to secure a better future for my constituents and this extra money will help local businesses create the jobs we need so more families will enjoy the security of a regular pay packet.

“It will also help equip our young people to gain the skills they need to get on in life.”

Steve Jones, the chairman of the Harborough Rail Users’ group, said: “Yes, it does appear to be great news for Market Harborough. Subject to the detail and the timing of the works, this is just what we have been campaigning for.

“Market Harborough station has seen major growth in usage over the past few years and the provision of full-length platforms and full access for the disabled have become increasingly pressing needs.

“Easing the speed restriction through Market Harborough will also improve the capacity of the line and allow for enhancements to the timetable.

“It is important, however, that the work is done in advance of the forthcoming electrification of the line. We therefore hope the Growth Deal announcement gives the commitment for that to happen.”

Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton also welcomed the news and added: “I’m delighted with the announcement of a further £20m in Growth Deal support, especially the funding being made available to upgrade to the Midland Mainline rail network through Market Harborough.

“These funds, added to the Growth Deal announcement last year and our own investment in supporting the economy, will help ensure the further growth of businesses and create new jobs in the county.”

Story by Alex Blackwell.

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