Vital work to start electrifying the Midland Mainline between Kettering and Harborough will start on Christmas Eve

The bold transport initiative will lay the foundation for the planned multi-billion pound upgrade of the line all the way north to Sheffield and Nottingham

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made a special visit to the Leicester hub of Network Rail contractors SPL
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made a special visit to the Leicester hub of Network Rail contractors SPL

Vital work to start electrifying the Midland Mainline between Kettering and Market Harborough will start on Christmas Eve, it’s emerged today.

The ambitious high-tech improvement scheme is set to cost tens of millions of pounds and benefit thousands of regular rail commuters and other travellers from across Harborough.

The bold transport initiative will lay the foundation for the planned multi-billion pound upgrade of the line all the way north to Sheffield and Nottingham.

Vital work to start electrifying the Midland Mainline between Kettering and Market Harborough will start on Christmas Eve.

It is also poised to sweep in a new era of quieter trains, greater decarbonisation, better connectivity and more local services across the region.

The breakthrough news comes 24 hours after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made a special visit to the Leicester hub of Network Rail contractors SPL yesterday (Monday).

Mr Shapps saw wiring gantries being built for the Midland Mainline as works teams gear up to fire the starting gun on Friday.

The Minister also met staff to mark the launch of the biggest-ever Government investment package for the North and Midlands – adding up to £96 billion.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made a special visit to the Leicester hub of Network Rail contractors SPL

The Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) is the blueprint for the Government’s commitment to building better transport links.

Today Mr Shapps said:  “Last month, I promised we would get on with delivering the Integrated Rail Plan by Christmas - and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“Today marks the beginning of a transformation of rail journeys for the Midlands and the North, where we will slash journey times and build better connections between towns, cities and everywhere in between.

“Under our plans, people won’t have to wait two decades for better services.

“This unprecedented investment will deliver better railways, sooner.”

As well as faster times, passengers will also see local services and capacity nearly doubled, making travelling by train more convenient and comfortable.

Silviya Barrett, head of policy and research at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is good news for passengers who will benefit from quicker journeys and better connections, and also good news for the planet.

“Electrifying more of the railway is key to helping make one of our greenest forms of transport even greener.”

Maria Machancoses, the chief executive of regional transport hub Midlands Connect, said: “It is great to see the Government putting the Integrated Rail Plan into action so quickly after the report was released.

“Extending the Midland Main Line electrification is an early Christmas present to the region and is the first step towards giving the East Midlands the transport infrastructure it deserves.”

She added: "Our job now is to build the infrastructure around it with HS2 trains coming to Derby and Nottingham through East Midlands Parkway and our flagship project the Midlands Rail Hub progressing well too.

“Today’s news is testament to local councils, businesses and MPs who have successfully made the case for upgrades on the Midland Main Line for years and the Department for Transport for working with us.

“Today is a good day for the Midlands as spades start to go into the ground.”

Paul McKeown, investment director for Network Rail’s Eastern Region, said: “It’s our pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State to Leicester.

“This next phase of electrification will bring real benefits to passengers and the communities we serve in the East Midlands.

“Teams will be working throughout Christmas to install the equipment which will carry the electric wires as far north as Market Harborough.”

Thrilled Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said: “I’ve been campaigning for full electrification of the line for years alongside the leader of Harborough District Council, Cllr Phil King.

“Electrification will make trains faster, quieter and cleaner across the whole of the Midland Mainline.

"You won’t have to walk through a fog of diesel fumes at St Pancras any more - and the trains will be quieter as they come through Market Harborough, Great Bowden, Kibworth, Newton Harcourt and Wigston."

The Conservative MP has also been calling on Network Rail and East Midlands Railway to improve Market Harborough's railway station.

“I appreciate how important these services are to my constituents who use the station and trains either for work to commute into London or Leicester in particular.

“And it is a big and welcome step towards the country going green as well.

“Making this investment will enable us to get the most out of the high tech new trains that are being built for us at the moment,” said Neil.

“And it complements the other major investments that are being made to speed up journeys between the east and west midlands too.”