A plan to reopen the disused Maid Marian line for passenger trains has progressed.
It is hoped the train line could link with the proposed HS2 station at Toton, meaning travellers in Kirkby and Sutton could access the high-speed route.
Ashfield District Council – which is run by the Ashfield Independents – commissioned an independent report into what benefits the scheme could have, and whether it was feasible.
Now, the council has agreed to ask the public for their thoughts on whether the line reopening should go ahead.
As part of the plans, two stations could get significant upgrades – Sutton Parkway and Kirkby in Ashfield – which would include improving accessibility.
The line itself goes roughly East to West, and connects two lines that go roughly North to South – the Robin Hood Line and the Erewash Valley Line.
It is currently open, but only handles freight trains. It is expected the reopening would mean passengers in Mansfield could get to the new Toton station in around 40 minutes, with slightly shorter journey times from Ashfield.
Currently, journey times from Kirkby-in-Ashfield to Attenborough (the closest existing station to where the Toton HS2 station will be built) are around an hour and 10 minutes, with a change at Nottingham.
The detailed feasibility study has been put together by consultancy firm Lichfields, and found there would be significant economic benefits to reopening the line.
It estimates that the line could see between 1.1 and 1.4 million rail journeys a year, taking cars off the roads.
On the issue of local economic benefits, it found: “Town centre revitalisation represents another key opportunity afforded by the re-opening of the Maid Marian line.
“Kirkby, Sutton and Mansfield town centres will benefit from improved transport links to destinations on the Robin Hood line and northwards during peak times, as well as to further afield via the East Midlands Hub (at Toton) and through new development to the four stations.
“The new connections will help to bring more people into both centres, providing additional footfall and expenditure to support local businesses and expand each centre’s respective retail and leisure bases.
“The increased capacity, connectivity and accessibility brought by the Maid Marian Rail Extension will support the delivery of residential and commercial development within the catchments of the four improved stations at Mansfield Woodhouse, Mansfield Town, Sutton Parkway and Kirkby in Ashfield.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny is the leader of the council, and represents the Larwood ward for the Ashfield Independents.
He told a meeting of the cabinet today (Monday, February 24): “I think it would be almost immoral for such a fantastic project as HS2 to run straight through Ashfield and the residents of our district having their noses pressed up against it, but not be able to access jobs and educational opportunities.
“For the entirety of Nottinghamshire, this is the only show in town for access to HS2.
“In the scheme of things this could be incredibly cost effective. Reopening mineral lines to passenger trains is very easy and likely to cost very little for the benefits it’s going to have.”
The plan to launch a public consultation was unanimously approved today.