Rail sector receives assurances that trans-Pennine upgrade will include electrification

In a letter sent to the Rail Industry Association (RIA), the transport secretary has looked to end any concerns the sector had that the government was prepared to ditch plans to electrify the trans-Pennine rail route.

Cost fears have surrounded the programme of rail upgrades linking Manchester with Leeds and York for over a year with claims the eventual upgrade would fall short of full electrification. But Chris Grayling has moved to quash worries within the industry by saying not only will electrification play a key role in the £3bn trans-Pennine upgrade but major civil engineering projects too.

The letter states that: “Unlike some other investment projects, the trans-Pennine upgrade will be a rolling programme of enhancements, including both major civil engineering projects and electrification”. The RIA says the assurances from the transport secretary should help to assure the industry that the route will include electrification over the coming five-year funding period.

Its welcome news also to northern transport bodies and politicians who have been pressurising the government to commit to such proposals. Concerns over plans to scrap electrification have been forthcoming from various parties, including Lilian Greenwood, chair of the transport committee, who has said that if electrification of the route was cancelled then people across the north would “conclude that the government had officially abandoned the northern powerhouse”. 

While never officially ruling out electrification of the route, the Department for Transport has also managed to steer clear of committing to any such program and earlier this month stated it was committed to improving journeys on the route by “bringing in state-of-the art trains, longer carriages and more frequent services for passengers”.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the RIA, has welcomed both civil engineering and electrification playing key parts in upgrades and says it provides rail suppliers with some certainty in the years ahead. 

He added: “The RIA believes that electrification remains the optimal form of traction for intensively used railway lines because it is more environmentally friendly, reduces wear and tear on track and is more cost effective over the long term.  The industry now looks forward to delivering on the Trans Pennine Route Upgrade, working with the DfT and Network Rail. We will soon be publishing our Electrification Cost Challenge report, which examines how the cost of electrification schemes can be reduced significantly – and we hope these learnings will help inform the Trans Pennine works in order to provide cost effective electrification to the north.”

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