A report in the Sunday Times has suggested that the government may go back on plans for electrification of the Transpennine rail route that links Manchester with Leeds and York.
The report claims that the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, may pull out of the project – which has been on hold since 2015 – because of rising costs.
The government has previously confirmed that £3 billion will be spent on upgrades of the Transpennine route, starting next year, that will provide “an ambitious rolling programme of works.”
Extensive electrification is expected as part of these upgrades, however they do not go as far as previously planned and will fall short of full electrification, which has been described as the most difficult and expensive type of upgrade.
A government source has rubbished the claims but it is certainly worrying given the importance placed on electrification and its technology, as well as the overall benefits for passengers and businesses, who will enjoy faster and more frequent journeys as a result.
The report of the cancellation of electrification on the Transpennine route comes soon after the release of a report from the Parliamentary Transport Committee that expressed disappointment that other potential electrification schemes have been cancelled.
Lack of funding was a reason for these cancellations, but MPs on the Committee still believe electrification is the “current optimal solution” for the parts of the rail network most heavily used.
The Transpennine route would certainly fit into this category of heavy usage and the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said this story will “spark real anger and outrage” if it is true.
“(If the story is true) it will spark real anger and outrage across the north of England. People here have been at the back of the queue for transport investment for as long as any of us can remember and this would leave promises of a northern powerhouse in tatters.”