Work on the electrification of the Transpennine train route between Manchester and Leeds is set to resume as part of an amended Network Rail upgrade programme submitted by chairman Sir Peter Hendy to the Secretary of State for Transport today.
The electrification of the route was put on hold by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in June, after Network Rail fell behind on parts of the Government’s £38bn five-year plan of train upgrades.
The announcement comes days ahead of the Conservative party conference which is set to open in Manchester on Saturday.
According to a statement from the Department for Transport, “the Transpennine line will deliver faster journeys and more capacity to help deliver a Northern Powerhouse”.
Hendy has outlined to McLoughlin how work could continue, and the Transport Secretary has confirmed that Network Rail can now “un-pause” the electrification.
Network Rail will work with the Department for Transport and Rail North to develop a new plan for electrification of the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and Leeds and on to York and Selby to focus on delivering key passenger benefits as quickly as possible.
The new plan will deliver faster journey times and significantly more capacity between Manchester, Leeds and York. The upgrade is expected to provide capacity for six fast or semi-fast trains per hour, take up to 15 minutes off today’s journey time between Manchester and York and be complete by 2022.
Network Rail will also recommence work to electrify Midland Mainline.
New Northern and TransPennine rail franchise awards will be announced before the end of the year. The franchises will deliver new train carriages and remove out-dated Pacer trains; introduce free WiFi on trains; and offer a one-third increase in capacity with 200 additional services on weekdays and Saturdays and 300 more train services on Sundays.
Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “As a one nation Government we are making sure every part of Britain benefits from a growing economy. Connecting up the great cities of the North is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse. This Government will see the job through and build a better, faster and more reliable railway for passengers in the North and Midlands.”
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: “The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. People can expect more services and faster journeys. We face some difficult challenges, and there is more work still to do, but the Secretary of State’s decision means we can now move forward with our plans to electrify TransPennine and Midland Mainline.”
Responding to the announcement the electrification of the TransPennine railway will be resumed, Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “The pausing of this critical project to electrify the line between Manchester and Leeds was very unfortunate and a setback for the credibility of the Northern Powerhouse.
“But we warmly welcome the news that this will crucial work will be carried out. Linking our great northern cities is the first step to creating a stronger north: underinvestment in transport connectivity means the north of England cannot behave as a single economy. Figures show there are 40% fewer commuter journeys between Leeds and Manchester than there should be, given their physical proximity.
“Now we would urge the government to use the Spending Review and Control Period 6 to ensure the Northern Powerhouse can go full steam ahead. We need to see new cash, real money, spades in the ground on the range of projects put forward by northern leaders which can transform the region’s prospects.
“This needs to go hand-in-hand with a radical devolution of powers and budget to Transport for the North, to avoid the piecemeal approach to rebuilding the north’s creaking infrastructure.”