Latest Rail News

15.07.15

TransPennine electrification ‘pause’ update unlikely till autumn 2015

Updates on the ‘temporary pauses’ of the TransPennine and Midland Main Line electrification projects are unlikely to surface until autumn 2015. 

Answering a Parliamentary Question, transport minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said that both schemes were paused pending Sir Peter Hendy’s proposals on re-planning the delivery of enhancements. 

However, in the recent Summer Budget it was noted that Network Rail’s new chair is to “bring to bear his experience and expertise and do what is necessary to ensure Network Rail can deliver effectively and operate the railways safely, and in particular to report by autumn 2015 with a plan to get the rail investment programme back onto a sustainable footing”. 

Responding to a question from Lord Scriven, the former Liberal Democrat leader of Sheffield City Council, Lord Ahmad said: “In the case of North Trans Pennine Electrification east of Stalybridge a temporary pause pending Sir Peter’s proposals will allow Network Rail to deliver wider development work in the region that will enable delivery of our more ambitious plans for the north. 

“In the case of the Midland Main Line, the desired passenger benefits can be delivered in the near term through the capacity improvements already planned for Control Period 5. Electrification is paused pending Sir Peter Hendy’s proposals on re-planning the delivery of enhancements.” 

Prior to the announcement by the secretary of state last month to ‘pause’ the project, RTM had been chronicling the delays and uncertainties surrounding the electrification of the line between Manchester and York, which was originally announced in 2011. 

At the beginning of this year, the Network Rail project team submitted the results of a 12-week report to the Department for Transport on journey time, capacity and performance improvements for the Northern Programme – Yorkshire, including TransPennine electrification. RTM requested to see this document under the Freedom of Information Act. The Department refused our request, saying: “On balance the public interest in withholding the information outweighs that for disclosure.” 

Last week, Sir Richard Leese, Manchester City Council’s leader and the interim chair of chair of Transport for the North, said the organisation remained “very concerned” that no direct announcement had been made about the electrification of the Leeds-Manchester railway line in the chancellor’s Summer Budget. 

There have been numerous reports in the national media this week about ‘who knew what when’ over the delays, with Labour suggesting some sort of cover-up. In a letter to Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne, shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood MP said the company had “serious questions to answer”. She wrote: “I must protest in the strongest possible terms that it appears that Network Rail neither levelled with Parliament nor the public before or during the election period.” 

RTM reported last month: “Network Rail as part of its ‘transparency agenda’ has finally published board meeting papers from March this year, which showed that the company was reviewing its business plan. Those papers noted that decisions on enhancement deferrals from June had to be made jointly with the DfT.” 

Greenwood made reference to those papers in her letter, saying: “The Department for Transport’s statement of 26 June 2015 implied that the secretary of state was unaware of Network Rail’s plan to defer major projects, even though a final decision of these plans was ‘required jointly with the DfT’. Consequently, the clear inference is that you failed to inform the secretary of state of this work before the election.” 

(Image: A Network Rail map highlighting electrification in the north west. The red line represents TransPennine electrification.)

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

Comments

Roger Capel   15/07/2015 at 13:49

So can we expect a quick bit of face saving by reviving the costing I gather the minister asked for not long before full MML electrification was announced for just wiring Bedford to Corby "the old fashioned way"? Presumably most of the work on this section is well in hand & it could be discretely hidden by tacking it onto Thameslink.

Andrew Gwilt   16/07/2015 at 02:21

The Northern Powerhouse project as in electrification on some of the routes that goes in & out of Manchester is going to struggle as the electrification has been put on hold which may last until late 2015 or early 2016 with most of the Class 319's now operating between Manchester and Liverpool as the line is electrified.

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