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TransPennine electrification and Piccadilly upgrade now also in doubt

Transport authorities in West Yorkshire have said it is “very disappointing” that electrification may not be completed along the entire TransPennine route as planned.

Last Friday, transport secretary Chris Grayling announced the cancellation of key parts of three major electrification projects on the Great Western route, the Midland Main Line and the line between Windermere and Oxenholme.

The news also comes after the secretary of state publicly stated that he would back plans for the next phase of the Crossrail 2 project, prompting many to argue that investment was being unfairly weighted in favour of London and the south east.

Electrification of the TransPennine route was due to be completed in 2018, but was “delayed indefinitely” back in June 2015, which Transport for the North argued was a huge concern for the region. The scheme was then ‘unpaused’ in October of the same year, much to the relief of – and inevitable backlash from – suppliers and local authorities.

But in a statement to MPs in the Commons last Friday, Grayling said that it may be “too difficult” to proceed with electrification along the entire TransPennine route from Leeds to Manchester.

Much like with the other cancelled schemes, he argued that the introduction of new bi-mode trains meant that electrification was not needed, since the units could travel on parts of the existing network on diesel as well as on the electrified sections.

He told the Daily Telegraph in an interview that the government is not abandoning electrification altogether, but “using [it] where it makes a difference”, meaning current plans would be curtailed and full electrification would be unlikely.

According to the Financial Times, Grayling said during a visit to Manchester on Friday: “If there are bits of the TransPennine network that are complicated to do and we have a bi-mode train, we can say: ‘here is a section we can have a diesel’. We will be electrifying TransPennine but we can do it in a smarter way.”

He also let slip that plans to build two more platforms at the major Manchester Piccadilly station as part of the Northern Hub project would be reviewed, adding: “I want them [Network Rail] to see if it is question of additional platforms or whether they can do something with digital technology that actually increases capacity.”

Major backlash across the north

Leaders of Northern authorities have slammed the decision, claiming that they felt Grayling was “warming us up for bad news”.

“The transport secretary’s recent comments appear to pre-empt Network Rail’s work concluding this autumn and hints at broken promises that will mean faster journeys and improved productivity in the north created through rail improvements are derailed,” said Cllr Keith Wakefield, West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport chair.

“Improving rail routes from Leeds to Manchester is integral to reducing journey times and improving efficiency and connectivity between two key hubs of the Northern Powerhouse.

“It is very disappointing to hear the transport secretary’s comments ahead of the work being concluded. If the secretary of state is warming us up for bad news, this makes a mockery of the government’s ambitions to rebalance the economy of the country and once again government seem to be going short-sighted in the north.”

He also urged the government not to go back on its promises to electrify this route and to improve rail services for business, workers and residents from the Leeds City Region.

“We would ask the transport secretary to give his commitment to this scheme and to use his Autumn Budget to provide the necessary investment needed to take it forward,” Cllr Wakefield concluded.

In an open letter to Grayling, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham revealed that he read “with surprise and disappointment” the comments the transport secretary had made in his Manchester visit about the “potential ‘downgrade’ of the electrification of the rail line between Manchester and Leeds and changes to the plans to upgrade Piccadilly station”.

“The electrification of the line across the North is critical to the delivery of your government’s promise of a Northern Powerhouse,” he argued. “The north has suffered from a lack of investment compared to the rest of the country and has had to put up with second class transport for too long.

“I’m sure I don't need to remind you that both electrification and the enhancement of Piccadilly were firm promises by your government. If they are now not going ahead, as your comments yesterday seemed to indicate, that would represent a major broken promise to the people of Greater Manchester and the north, and the derailment of the Northern Powerhouse.

“Your comments yesterday were all the more surprising given there was no mention of this in your written ministerial statement to Parliament on Thursday.”

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J, Leicester   25/07/2017 at 12:05

Called it.

J. Oker   25/07/2017 at 12:33

Will bi-mode trains be able to keep up with Pacer timings........

King's Lynn   25/07/2017 at 13:05

Is anyone starting to think that Mr Grayling is sounding a bit like that old mantra 'In The Future, There Will Be Robots?' By which, I mean that he's palming off stuff that needs to happen now to some far off date when things will be 'better'? He might as well start muttering about teleportation being a thing, the way he's going.

Jason   25/07/2017 at 14:41

Sadly it seems that Grayling is using the introduction of bi-mode trains as his "get out of paying for renewals free" card!

Sandy   25/07/2017 at 15:09

Andy Burnham has it just right. This is a kick in the teeth for the Northern Poorhouse and a strong intimation that there will be no HS3. Typical of a Cabinet Minister to yell the news over his shoulder as he runs off for the Summer! Had Andy Burnham stood as Leader of the Labour Party,they might now be in Government and this might not havehappened.

Huguenot   25/07/2017 at 15:55

And all this start-stop is terrible for the supply industry, too. Even if there is slippage, what the industry wants is certainty of projects going ahead. Bi-modes are not the answer except on just a few lines. The diesel in bi-modes is much less powerful than electric traction, and it is electric working that is needed to pull trains over the Pennines (hence the original Manchester-Sheffield-Wath 1500KV), provide rapid acceleration from stops and achieve acceptable frequencies and journey times.

Cadno   25/07/2017 at 17:45

Re para 9 and Grayling's idea that digital and increased capacity mean you don't need more platforms. Has he ever visited planet Earth? The issue with passenger trains at termini is the dratted passengers. Deliver 30 tph if you like but you can't disembark then embark a trainful in 2 minutes. More capacity means more platforms.

James Miller   25/07/2017 at 21:36

On the East London Line, it is planned that twenty trains per hour will run from Dalston Junction to Surrey Quays. Surely with modern signalling between Piccadilly and Deansgate at least sixteen trains per hour can run, if better passenger access is added to the existing platforms.

Andrew Gwilt   25/07/2017 at 22:17

I think Chris Grayling is becoming like Richard Beeching. Axing the electrification on some major routes including the Midland Main Line. But Bi-Mode trains could be the better solution for the UK's railway routes that electrification might be impossible. Probably that includes the "Electric Spine".

Simon Eames1990   25/07/2017 at 22:24

As HS2 is so expensive the government who loves HS2 too much is simply breaking promises that are cheaper and will boost the economy. HS2 will not boost the UK economy it will plunge the nation into a recession by the 2030s after HS2 is finished. Most people want to see the rail network upgraded and most politicians want HS2.

Tim   25/07/2017 at 23:10

The through platforms at Piccadilly suffer from not enough capacity on the stairs. No point running more trains per hour if the passengers from the train before are still queuing off the platform.

Roy Burnley   26/07/2017 at 01:08

Why not eletricfiy york to leeds only which sould not bee to difficit and also benefit virgin east coast has well as tpx

Andrew JG   26/07/2017 at 07:24

Give it 5 years time. Then Mr Chris Grayling might be saying. "I have changed my mind on postsponing the Midland Main Line electrification and I'm now declaring that the Midland Main Line (north of Bedford) will finally be electrified to Kettering and Corby and to extend the electrification to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leeds". Also he'll be saying. "Same with parts of the Great Western Main Line and Valley Lines in South Wales that is declared for electrification to be given the go ahead and to bring in older EMU rolling stocks aswell new EMU and Bi-Mode rolling stocks once the electrification has been completed". If that's what he will be planning to say in 5 years time.

Splinter   26/07/2017 at 08:10

Lets get this straight - Beeching was just a puppet doing what his boss - Marples - told him to do. Beeching didn't know the front end of a train from the brake van. Question is, does Grayling know anything about railways or is someone pulling his strings?

Paul   26/07/2017 at 09:17

How much of the route between Liverpool and Newcastle needs to be electrified. I know there is the gap between Leeds and York, about 25 miles and then you have the ECML going north to Scotland. What is electrified going west from Leeds?

Tim Price   26/07/2017 at 22:55

So trains into Nottingham, one of Britains most polluted city's, will be diesel for the foreseeable future, but there are plans to potentially charge diesel car drivers in Nottingham a daily pollution tax? How does that work then? Bit of a paradox there?

Peter   27/07/2017 at 15:44

When hundreds of thousands of electric cars are all plugged in to charge on a cold calm winter evening, and the power grid goes down leaving just enough stored energy to keep the signals going, people travelling by diesel power will win.

Ron   27/07/2017 at 22:32

Paul well might ask 'What's electrified West of Leeds' - Simples - Nothing until you get to Manchester and that's only half finished from there to Preston. I think there's a line electrified from Manchester to Warrington as a WCM relief by-pass route.

Lutz   28/07/2017 at 01:33

Transport Department have also backed plans for the TfL NPR so where is the difference? Well CR2 is at a more advanced stage of planning than NPR. TPE is not under threat - it is to be reviewed in conjunction with TfL proposals which all parties are fully aware of. What we DO have here, is two City Mayors (amongst others) jockeying for the next lead of the Labour Party.

J, Leicester   28/07/2017 at 08:51

That'll be a fun excuse to use, Peter. "Sorry boss, I can't come in today - my car won't go because the National Grid is inadequate!" I'll keep that one upstairs for 25 years time.

John Webster   31/07/2017 at 13:07

So, reading between the lines, Piccadilly Platforms 15 & 16 not going to happen, electrification across the Pennines not going to happen, Windermere branch electrification not going to happen. No one has mentioned how all the trains from the east, diverted via Victoria before using a very expensive Ordsall Chord, are going to fit in with present traffic between Deansgate and Piccadilly. Trains using the terminal Platforms have at least six tracks at the station throat - Deansgate has just one up and one down and is already at congestion point making Ordsall Chord useless without the extra tracks. But then we are only Northerners - who cares - certainly not Whitehall! P.S. What about Bolton to Wigan via Westhoughton???

Banklineman   31/07/2017 at 20:40

It's about time the people in the north realised they are a nonentity, when their MPs are the majority when in power they can't get their heads together to get things sorted, there's no political clout.

Billd   31/07/2017 at 22:08

Everyone is talking about passenger trains being bi-mode to speed them up without full electrification. No-one seems to recall that trans-pennine freight will need to be diesel only as there isn't a locomotive equivalent of the proposed electro-diesel multiple units. This means that either freight will be pushed of or passenger trains will have to follow them as now.

J, Leicester   01/08/2017 at 13:05

Billd, there is - look up the Class 88s being rolled out for DRS as we speak. That's not the issue though, in honesty - it's the lack of capacity on those routes meaning a lack of paths, which will only be compounded by expecting the IEP units to slog it over the route's gradients on underpowered diesel engines with poor acceleration rates.

Banklineman   03/08/2017 at 16:40

Electrification cancellations are big kick up the backside for Network Rail they haven't got the necessary in house experience for contract management due mainly to lack of continuity of schemes. Government policy or non policy is equally to blame and these cancellations are poor form of retribution. I suggest bi mode is a red herring.

Amtrain   18/08/2017 at 12:08

Fortunately the original TP electrification was at 1.5Kv DC not as suggested by your correspondent 1500Kv. A surprising number of PTS candidates seem to like 25 000Kv as the OLE voltage, time to dig out the super insulators!! Regarding Bi mode units, been tried before, remember the somewhat underpowered southern class 73 Andy

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