Latest Rail News

13.02.15

NR to look ‘seriously’ at extending electrification in the Midlands – Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne has asked Network Rail to “look very seriously” at electrifying the main line between Bristol and Birmingham and between Derby and Birmingham. 

During a visit to the Bombardier train factory in Derby, alongside David Cameron, the chancellor revealed a £5.2bn investment in road and rail projects across the Midlands. 

At the event, Osborne set out the ambition to raise the average economic growth rate of the Midlands to at least match the rest of the country, something which he believes could add an extra £34bn to the local economy in real terms by 2030. 

He said: “We commit £5.2bn to create a modern, interconnected transport network for the UK – centred around the Midlands. This isn’t a vague commitment. We are allocating specific sums to road and rail projects here in the Midlands.” 

On his transport plans, Osborne added: “I’m committed to improving rail connections across the Midlands – today I am asking Network Rail to look at the case for electrifying the main line between Bristol and Birmingham and Derby and Birmingham.” 

The chancellor said this comes on top of plans to bring huge investment to the area through high-speed rail with enhanced connectivity, capacity and regeneration. 

Within the announcement it was noted that by September 2016 Network Rail will publish its initial industry plan for funding after CP5, which will include a study looking at the costs and benefits of electrifying the main line between Bristol and Birmingham and between Derby and Birmingham. 

A Network Rail spokesperson told RTM: “Electrification brings the possibility of transforming the passenger experience and brings with it many benefits including faster, more reliable, greener journeys that reduces the overall cost of the railway. 

“Network Rail welcomes opportunities to bring further electrification plans to reality and will work closely with government on developing these plans.” 

Transport group Railfuture champions new electrification, but is unconvinced about the announcement, with an election just around the corner. Spokesman Bruce Williamson said: "Electrifying the line between Bristol and Derby through Birmingham would be very welcome and long overdue but the Chancellor's commitment does seem a little vague. He has merely asked Network Rail to look at the case for electrification, and we want to know whether this is actually going to happen.

"This link would be an obvious next step, as the Great Western Main Line through Bristol and the Midland Main Line through Derby are going to be electrified, and this links the two. Further electrification means less reliance on diesel trains, and newer diesel trains freed up by this process might allow us to get rid of the much unloved Pacers.

"It's important that this investment doesn't come at the expense of other rail schemes, as there is a very strong case for in-fill electrification schemes in the north of England too. Network Rail's electrification team have their hands full with the Great Western and Midland Main Line projects, and I wonder whether they have the capacity to deliver this extra work within a reasonable timescale. With an election just around the corner, we want to be reassured that this is a firm commitment, and not something that can just quietly be dropped."

(Image: c. Joe Giddens) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Transtraxman   13/02/2015 at 11:16

One has to be sceptical about announcements like this as we are in a pre-electoral period. It should also be noted that the key phrase is"...I am asking Network Rail to look at the case for electrifying the main line..." which is not any concrete promise of any sort. However, that said, I would hope that the projects were not looked at as two different schemes. The logical thing to do (not the strong point of politicians) is to commit to the electrification of the corridor Bristol-Birmingham-Derby- Sheffield (to connect with the MML electification up to Leeds) and on to Doncaster. The programme must be electrification linked with signalling and line improvement (to sort out all the kinks which reduce line speed).That way a significant upgrade in the system can be made.

Manek Dubash   13/02/2015 at 12:46

I do wonder how much of the "£5.2bn investment in road and rail projects across the Midlands" is actually new money...

Tonyp   14/02/2015 at 13:10

How depressing and negative comments from Manek. I could be reading comments pedalled by the Labour Party.

Mikeyb   14/02/2015 at 16:54

Electrification from Birmingham to Bristol is long overdue. However, whilst appreciating that he holds the nation's purse strings, I often ask myself why do we always seem get announcements about such projects from George Osborne? I am therefore starting to feel a little sorry for poor old Patrick McLoughlin the Transport Secretary who, in my mind, should be the one to make such announcements but who is upstaged by George every time there is some good news on rail matters.

Manek Dubash   16/02/2015 at 12:42

Tonyp I'd say the same about the Labour Party - when in power, they operated in just the same way. It's a case of having to analyse and inspect every dot and comma of a politician's promises....

John Stewart   02/03/2015 at 17:35

To me, "Look very seriously" from a Chancellor means: "Produce a study showing that it has a sound business case and should be done". It is pretty much a politely phrased instruction.

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