HS2

08.11.16

Maynard refuses to confirm 2023 deadline for Midland Main Line electrification

Rail minister Paul Maynard MP has refused to confirm that the entire Midland Main Line electrification up to Sheffield will be finished by 2023, dodging repeated questions from local MPs at a Commons debate yesterday.

Maynard was grilled by former shadow transport secretary and Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood, former education secretary and Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan, and chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee and Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts.

All three politicians questioned if the government remained committed to the 2023 scheme deadline, which is already a revision of the original promise to electrify the main line by 2020.

Morgan was the first to bring the issue up, noting that the extended completion date “is not ideal”, but was one that gave certainty to passengers, communities, businesses and investors.

“The upgrade and electrification scheme was conceived as an integrated package. Only by implementing the whole scheme can the benefits to passengers, freight operators and local businesses be delivered in full,” she argued.

“It remains vital that the government deliver the upgrade and electrification scheme in full by 2023 at the latest. I hope that the minister will acknowledge the concerns of members and give his commitment to the whole scheme.”

In response, Maynard confirmed that the DfT remains committed to electrification from London to Kettering and Corby by 2019, which is also a revised deadline from the original planned date of 2017 – but made no mention of the line up to Sheffield.

Greenwood later brought up the issue once again, quoting former rail minister Claire Perry’s promises from September last year. Asked if he would reaffirm commitment to that timescale, Maynard replied that he would “merely repeat” what he just said, “which is that we are committed to the development of the ongoing electrification programme”.

Betts then immediately cornered the rail minister, saying: “Let us be absolutely clear about something. We were given a promise in this House by ministers when the electrification was unpaused that electrification would happen – to Sheffield, with the whole line complete – by 2023. Is the minister now rowing back on that commitment or is he prepared to confirm it?”

But Maynard just said that the DfT is “continuing to develop the electrification proposals”, adding that he would not “take lectures” from Labour members about the pace of the project given that their party “failed to electrify more than six miles in its entire time in government”.

“What we are focusing on today is ensuring that we have better quality train services on the inter-city routes by ensuring that the longer distance trains have fewer stopping places south of Kettering,” he continued. “Therefore, we are continuing that development work.”

The minister later added that the development work on the further stages of electrification “is an incremental process”.

The electrification of the Midland Main Line was ‘paused’ in June last year by former transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin in order to allow Network Rail to focus on Great Western, which the government called its “top priority”.

When the scheme was unpaused in September, the DfT revealed works would take longer than expected, with the electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby being pushed to 2019 and the line north of Kettering to Leicester, Derby/Nottingham and Sheffield delayed until 2023.

As well as costing the government as much as £40m, the process of ‘unpausing’ the scheme also sparked backlash from the rail supply chain, with companies making clear that the original halt to the works had a profound effect on them.

 

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Comments

Lutz   08/11/2016 at 13:45

A little ridiculous to be using terms such as grave and critical in connection with a rail scheme.

John   08/11/2016 at 13:46

Oh really??This is another piece of blithering incompetence by the politicians and their subordinates. McLoughlin totally messed about last year with this and now we have yet another episode of failing to get a hold of Notwork Fail's sheer inability to budget for time and cost. This is a no 1 Priority and ahead of HS2 - which should be scrapped if necessary as it is hopelessly expensive and won't deliver on any Business Plan - that is if you have ever seen one that makes and sense!!

Roger Capel, Insider   09/11/2016 at 08:05

I think that the only reason we got Corby by 2019 is because the powers that be were shamed into it, given the immense amount of work already put into it. There's also the little issue of what's going to run on it in 2019, given manufacturers' lead times - Derby has capacity problems looming already. Displaced & face lifted IC225s from East Coast would make sense (the timing's right) & would still be an improvement on Meridian, though 91 availability can still be an issue.

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