HS2: Transport Secretary talks railway numbers

Image caption Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin knows the East Midlands well

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has a trainspotter's mind. He just loves numbers.

Speaking to business leaders in the East Midlands, he sprayed his audience with big, impressive numbers to win over any HS2 doubters.

First up: "HS2 will create 1,600 jobs in the East Midlands directly and boost productivity by £2.2bn a year, within five years of the railway opening," he said.

As a further nudge, he rejoiced in the Crossrail contract awarded to Derby-based train-maker Bombardier - 65 "train sets", 1,000 jobs and 100 new apprenticeships.

The transport secretary was addressing the annual dinner of the region's Chamber of Commerce in Nottingham.

But not everyone in the business community is convinced that the cost of those HS2 billions is good value.

Patrick McLoughlin just keeps hitting out those numbers.

"Rail passenger demand between East Midlands and London is expected to grow by 28% over the next 10 years," he said.

"The West Coast Main Line is already effectively full. We are investing to improve capacity on the East Coast line.

"But even if we spent £20bn mending and patching up our existing tracks, it would deliver less than half the benefits of HS2."

Image caption Nottingham Station has been renovated at a cost of £100m

And if there are any more doubters: "It would mean closing the East Coast and Midland Main Lines at weekends for up to 14 years."

The business leaders are frustrated enough at long holds-ups on the road network around greater Nottingham.

As MP for Derbyshire Dales, Mr McLoughlin knows the area well.

He told his audience that congestion on the notorious A453 at junction 24 of the M1, is costing businesses £100,000 a year.

The £150m widening of the road into south Nottingham is expected to be completed next year.

'Record investment'

"We are investing record amounts in upgrading Britain's roads and railways," he added.

"Traffic on East Midlands' roads has been growing twice as fast as the national average for the past 10 years.

"Rail usage has more than doubled since 1996. Yet the World Economic Forum ranked the UK only 24th in the quality of its infrastructure.

"The result of that underinvestment has been congestion on the roads, and rail passengers crowded on commuter trains."

He also told his business audience that the electrification of the Midland Main Line would be completed by 2019. You could almost hear the sigh of relief.

Even better to an East Midlands audience was this news: a £70m programme to upgrade 159 miles of track on the Midland Main Line is already under way.

A revamp of Nottingham station is also nearly complete, at a cost of £100m.

A succession of numbers. The accountants in the audience enjoyed the moment. Business leaders leaders liked the message too.