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Leicestershire County Council needs to show Leadership over Rail Improvements!

October 30, 2013 11:16 AM
By Jeff Kaufman

Jeff Kaufman is a County Councillor for Oadby and a Liberal
Democrat representative on the County Council Network.


One of his key interests is in public transport and is writing today to urge
the Leicestershire County Council to take a more proactive approach to
winning investment for key infrastructure projects in the area.

Jeff Kaufman

Last May I was returned to Leicestershire County Council, as a member for the Oadby Division, after 28 years of absence. The County Council has changed quite dramatically since then, with Rutland and the City splitting off into unitary authorities, and the open and transparent committee system being replaced with the cabinet and leader system. I have, however, found one thing that hasn't changed - the Council's complete disregard of the advantages of railways as a form of public transport for residents.

train

"Our rail links are a vital part of the County's infrastructure, essential in supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth."

The Coalition Government programme to electrify the London to Sheffield main line provides a rare opportunity to improve services for Leicestershire residents. For example, if the Peterborough Nuneaton railway line running east west through the County had a flyover built at South Wigston, it would improve services between Melton Mowbray, Leicester and Hinckley.

Straightening the line into Market Harborough would significantly reduce travel times and increase capacity for journeys to and from London. We also need to ensure that the station at Market Harborough is fit for purpose and has a platform with a proper length and with proper facilities for people with disabilities. The Council proudly presented a large document containing their Equalities strategy in September - here would be a perfect opportunity to put it into practice!

Sadly, the County Council appears to show no interest in pushing for such development.

It would cost the Council nothing to send officers to LANRAC meetings to fight Leicestershire's corner! Nottinghamshire County Council always has a strong presence, fighting for their interest. Even within Leicestershire, effective lobbying from councillors and officers at Charnwood Borough Council won an £8m renovation for Loughborough station.

train2

"...effective lobbying from councillors and officers at Charnwood Borough Council won an £8m renovation for Loughborough station."

If Leicestershire County Council is not careful, these railway improvements that the Coalition is offering will be taken up entirely by neighbouring authorities; providing fast and efficient trains for the travellers from Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield to London; leaving Leicestershire with a slower and far less frequent service, joined on the "Capital Connect" service that currently finishes at Bedford.

Our rail links are a vital part of the County's infrastructure, essential in supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth. To neglect them would be absolutely unacceptable!

I call on the Conservative controlled cabinet at Leicestershire County Council to show some leadership and ensure that they, and the officers at County Hall, take a full part in the negotiations and discussions with Railtrack and all other interested parties to ensure that Leicestershire makes the most of this valuable opportunity.