Midland Main Line electrification unpaused – but delayed by years

Midland Main Line and TransPennine electrification works are set to restart under plans announced by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin today (30 September).

The ‘unpause’ is part of Sir Peter Hendy’s work to reset Network Rail’s CP5 enhancements programme, which was going massively over-budget and over-schedule. Hendy has outlined to McLoughlin how the work could continue, resulting in the secretary ordering Network Rail to resume works.

Hendy said in a letter to the secretary of state that he recommended both projects should be resumed “with immediate effect”

To which McLoughlin replied: “I would be grateful if they could be un-paused with immediate effect and progressed with some urgency. This work will sit alongside new TransPennine and Northern rail franchise awards which will be announced in December.

“I recognise that there is more work to do on your overall re-plan and that successful delivery of these projects has some implications.”

Hendy said in a statement: “The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. People can expect more services and faster journeys. We face some difficult challenges, and there is more work still to do, but the secretary of state’s decision means we can now move forward with our plans to electrify TransPennine and Midland Main Line.

McLoughlin added that Hendy’s full report still “remains on track” for publication in November.

Midland Main Line

Works on the Midland Main Line will take years longer than originally planned, with electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby set for 2019 and the line north of Kettering to Leicester, Derby/Nottingham and Sheffield set for 2023.

The original plan, costed at £1.6bn, was to have electric trains running to Corby by December 2017, Derby and Nottingham by December 2019 and to Sheffield by December 2020.

In his letter to the transport secretary, Hendy said he understood that the electrification un-pause would further exacerbate the “likely funding shortfall in CP5”. Because of this, his re-plan will set out what Network Rail can do “within its own resources to mitigate the impact of the rest of the affordable programme”.

“Of course, a considerable amount of the electrification costs of both schemes will fall outside CP5 and this will form part of the core of CP6 as schemes which will by then be underway.”

960-mml-electrificationClick on the image to enlarge it.


Network Rail will work alongside the Department for Transport and Transport for the North to develop a new electrification plan of the TransPennine Line, with details considered to be an “improvement” on the previous plan. The upgrade is expected to provide capacity for six fast or semi-fast trains per hour, take up to 15 minutes off current journey times between Manchester and York and finish by 2022.

Hendy said in his letter to McLoughlin: “In order to ensure expenditure is not wasted on abortive works, my advice is that a full planning exercise should start immediately with all relevant parties. This will establish a firm detailed design which increases benefits to passengers compared to the previous paused scheme, and this will be concluded by the end of 2017.

“During this time we should also explore the best methods of delivery on the Trans-Pennine route, bearing in mind the need to keep the railway operational, but also the need for necessary access to the railway for the works.

“My advice is that commencing electrification at the beginning of 2018 (with some enabling works carried out before then) could result in delivery by end 2022. Hence while this is a decision for you, my advice is that the project can be un-paused with immediate effect.”

960-tp-electrificationClick on the image to enlarge it.

East Midlands Trains welcomed the decision, with its managing director, Jake Kelly, adding: “Today’s news about the electrification scheme will provide a further boost to this and will come as great news to our customers, communities and all the stakeholders who understand the importance of this major improvement scheme.  

“There remains an urgent need for more capacity, new rolling stock and faster journey times on our network and these are big priorities for our customers and the communities we serve.

“We look forward to working with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to secure these important benefits for our customers.”


100Andthirty   30/09/2015 at 13:10

This is good news. It underlines that electrification is a good thing. However, I believe if also underlines the importance of not squeezing very large infrastructure programmes into 5 year CP settlements. Whilst good for ongoing maintenance and renewal works, 5 year plans really don't work with enhancement programmes. These need two things to happen. 1) appropriate programmes for the scale, risk and invasiveness of the programme and 2) much better programme management and integration between NR IP, NR ops, TOCs and everyone else contributing to the outputs of the programmes.

Roger Capel, Sheffield   30/09/2015 at 13:12

Perhaps a prod for the resurrection of the "E-Voyager / E-Meridian" project that the powers that be have been blowing hot & cold over for years? Voyagers on diesel "under the wires" from Manchester to Birmingham & Edinburgh to Doncaster look increasingly questionable now that Bi-Mode (Electro-Diesel to us of an age) seem to be in vogue. Meridians on diesel from Kettering to London'll look plain silly when E/D 800s are already in service elsewher.

Lutz   01/10/2015 at 01:04

Not unexpected, and very nearly as predicted; This is what happens when political posturing takes precedence over formal planing practices. Now that he is gone, the plans can be redrawn to match realistic expectations.

J Webster   01/10/2015 at 09:44

What rolling stock are they planning to use on these routes? Would be nice to see class 91's with mk4's on trans-pennine/midland mainline once Virgin East Coast get the IEP.

Simon James   02/10/2015 at 12:38

Rather than wait yet more decades for further electrification shouldn't the industry be trying to build clean diesels which are not only environmentally sound but can go anywhere so are not stuck at 30mph when the wires come to an end - eg Corby to Leicester on the MML. Overheads cost a great deal to erect and maintain and you need ALL the infrastructure to be in place before a single train can run. There are no plans that I know of for electrifying the M25 and so on to replace inefficient Diesel HGV's (with or without emissions technology!) Bring on Clean Diesel and forget electrification!! What a revolution that might be.

Dirty Diesel   02/10/2015 at 16:58

But Simon clean diesel does not, and will never, exist!

Mikeb   02/10/2015 at 17:47

There is also the current problem surrounding the North West electrification project, whereby Balfour Beatty has walked away from the contract. If no announcement is made soon regarding a replacement contractor, the completion dates for Manchester - Preston (via Bolton) and Preston - Blackpool will be not much before 2020 at the earliest.

Andrew Gwilt   03/10/2015 at 23:24

Not to mention that the Gospel Oak-Barking (GOBLIN) is to be electrified which has not been affected and other routes in the North of England and possibly the East of England (Rural lines in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Marks Tey-Sudbury line in Essex) are in plans to be electrified (AC 25kv OHLE) and the North Downs line to be electrified with DC 750v 3rd Rail between Reading and Redhill with GWR's Class 319's to be used on that route and Southern to operate London-Guildford via Redhill and Dorking.

M Brooks   21/10/2015 at 20:56

I agree with Roger Capel of Sheffield that Project Thor should be resurrected. Even when electrificatrion is completed to Kettering and Corby, only an hourly service (by the current timetable) can be fully electric. Put an extra coach in the Meridians, equipped with pantograph and transformer, and you have a bi-mode at lower cost than a new train and extra capacity as well. This could then be rolled out to CrossCountry's Voyagers as well: this TOC spends far too much mileage running under the wires to Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh. An initial outlay, yes, but one that would surely repay, both financially and in public perception.

John   13/05/2016 at 12:17

Does anyone know what the time would be from London to Sheffield on the MML if.... 1. The line was fully electrified. 2. Using tilting Pendolinos. 3. Using in-cab signalling enabling full 140mph. Additionally the time if any bottlenecks/glitches in the line are ironed out. Thanks

David Fursdon   29/06/2017 at 16:34

I am pleased to electrification will be reaching Corby by 2019 Can I ask if the rolling stock has yet been agreed to operate on the new services and how frequent will the timetable be ? Also I am concerned of when the MML Electrification is completed to Sheffield by 2023 if diversions are needed between Kettering and Leicester via Corby and Manton,Oakham and Melton Mowbray how will trains get beyond Corby where electrification will end ? Can you give any information on plans to construct a single line curve at Manton Junction to allow direct running for freight services from the East Coast onto the Kettering to Manton Railway that would also benefit and East to West passenger rail link in the future.I am very interested in rail development in my area and pro these improvements.Thank you David Fursdon Mobile 07790 197220

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