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£100m rail upgrade could see return of direct Coventry and East Mids links

Political leaders have welcomed plans that could see direct rail services return between Coventry and the East Midlands for the first time in 20 years.

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

And it said the moved would cut journey times by around a third.

For a long time there has been criticism of the poor level of services between the East and West Midlands.

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

It comes a few weeks before the planned publication of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, setting the agenda for the next 30 years of rail travel and outlining Government spending in the Midlands and North.

The plans from Midlands Connect – the transport partner of the Midlands Engine – suggest adding an extra two million seats to the region’s rail network every year.

They also suggest two new trains an hour, also calling at Loughborough and East Midlands Parkway, made possible by a new “dive under” at Nuneaton, alongside plans to improve line speed along the route.

Currently, passengers have to change train and platform at Nuneaton.

Midlands Connect said the inconvenience means just 3 per cent of trips between Coventry and Leicester are made by rail, compared to 30 per cent of trips between Coventry and Birmingham.

It said its 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.

More people using rail – which Midlands Connect says produces 80 per cent less CO2 than car journeys – would also help meet net-zero targets.

Subject to funding – with costs estimated at between £90-£100 million – the first trains could run as soon as 2025.

Midlands Connect now hopes to get the green light to bring the plans to their next stage of development, creating an outline business case by the end of next year.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “I can’t think of two UK cities other than Coventry and Leicester, that are as close, yet so appallingly connected by rail.

“At the moment it can take up to an hour and twenty minutes to travel less than 25 miles, and passengers have to change trains half-way – it’s simply not good enough.

“Given this, it’s no wonder that 97 per cent of trips on this route are made 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 ahead to create detailed plans for delivery, with the support of Government.”

Coventry City Council leader Coun George Duggins said: “There’s no other way of looking at it – here we have a missing link, a really important link between the east and the west Midlands, and this is our opportunity to reforge it.

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

“At the moment the Midlands’ east – west rail connections are sub-standard, holding us back from a more productive and sustainable future.

“Turning these plans into reality is an essential step in boosting prosperity and public transport use across our region – let’s get on with it.”

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