Fares, rail policy and DfT news

15.01.19

Huddersfield rail electrification to be included in £2.9bn TransPennine upgrade in revealed ‘confidential’ information

The long-awaited £2.9bn upgrade to the TransPennine rail route may also include the partial electrification of the line between Huddersfield and Leeds and Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge after a councillor revealed “confidential” information.

Kirklees councillor Peter McBride announced the set of upgrade works at a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority as the council provided an update on HS2 progress during which he revealed details of a letter sent by Transport for the North last month.

The letter contained recommendations made to Chris Grayling by the rail industry and other interested parties which Kirklees Council confirmed were in fact confidential.

It was proclaimed that the major project may involve digital signalling and “capacity works” which could see more rail lines at Huddersfield, Ravensthorpe and Stalybridge in order to allow for an increased number of express trains.

But ExaminerLive reported that McBride seemed to take colleagues by surprise and chairman Kim Groves then took the meeting to a private session despite McBride denying the letter was confidential.

McBride added that Grayling, who had previously planned to make an announcement on the long-awaited upgrade last year, will now likely unveil his plans in the spring.

The five-year programme of works is set to get underway in 2020, but the £2.9bn upgrade may leave passengers on TransPennine trains facing five years of major disruption.

Another leaked letter from November revealed Network Rail’s Rob McIntosh describing the route as a “Victorian construction that passes through the Pennines with its inherently challenging topography,” and warned Grayling that much of the work “will be limited and difficult.”

The project will ultimately cut journey times between York, Leeds, and Manchester, as well as boost capacity, but during the extensive upgrade works journey times will reportedly increase by 15 to 25 minutes.

According to ExaminerLive, McBride spoke after the committee meeting, saying he was embarrassed to have revealed the details, “the latest update to the secretary of state”, and that he wasn’t aware it was confidential.

Cllr Martyn Bolt said the TransPennine upgrade has always been a major and welcome scheme, and stated: “The railway between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe is going to be four-tracked with passing places. The cat is out of the bag. What we really need now is the detail.”

Bolt added that the surprise announcement was “obviously an embarrassment” as none of the others were privy to the letter.

Image credit - Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

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