Work to electrify northern rail routes begins again

30 Sep 15

Work to electrify trans-Pennine rail routes is to resume under plans to reboot Network Rail’s upgrade programme.

In June, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin suspended some aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme amid concerns about cost and timing overruns. He charged former Transport for London boss Sir Peter Hendy, now chair of Network Rail, with developing fresh proposals.

Hendy has devised a way in which paused work to the trans-Pennine network and Midland Mainline routes can continue with immediate effect. His plan will electrify the line between Stalybridge, to the east of Manchester, and Leeds and on to York and Selby. It will be focused on delivering passenger benefits as quickly as possible as opposed to the previous plan that only changed the power supply of the trains.

“The temporary pause in the programme has give us the space to develop a better plan for passengers,” Hendy said.

When the upgrade is complete in 2022, journey times between Manchester and York will be reduced by up to 15 minutes and the line will provide capacity for six fast or semi-fast trains per hour.

Hendy is also proposing that the Midland Mainline be electrified north of Bedford, with electrification to Kettering and Corby complete by 2019 and to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield by 2023.

McLoughlin said: “Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse.

“This government will see the job through and build a better, faster and more reliable railway for passengers in the north and Midlands.”

New franchises for the Northern and TransPennine routes will also be announced before the end of the year. These will deliver new carriages, removing outdated Pacer trains, introduce free WiFi on trains and increase the services offered by one third.

The IPPR North think-tank gave a warm welcome to the news. Director Ed Cox said: “Now we would urge the government to use the Spending Review and Control Period 6 to ensure the Northern Powerhouse can go full steam ahead. We need to see new cash, real money, spades in the ground on the range of projects put forward by northern leaders which can transform the region’s prospects.

 “This needs to go hand-in-hand with a radical devolution of powers and budget to Transport for the North, to avoid the piecemeal approach to rebuilding the north’s creaking infrastructure.”

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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