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Is electrification of Midland Main Line back on track?

News story.
News story.

Electrification of the Midland Main Line could be back on track.

The Transport Select Committee has published a report this morning saying it should be recategorised as ‘pending’, rather than cancelled.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, cancelled the project on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess in July last year.

He said the line would be electrified from London to Kettering but not any further north.

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at East Midlands Chamber, which has lobbied hard for electrification of Midland Main Line, said: “We welcome this report from the Transport Select Committee and that electrification of Midland Main Line should be recategorised as ‘pending’.

“Cities in the East Midlands have clean air targets to meet and replacing existing diesel trains with cleaner, lighter, faster electric trains will help them achieve their targets; bi-mode diesel/electric stock would hinder that progress.

“When HS2 comes along, it will be necessary to electrify the Midland Main Line through Chesterfield and Sheffield, where it will be used by HS2 services, so the decision by Mr Grayling last year meant that only about 80 miles of the route would not be electrified. That just didn’t make sense to us.”

Mr Grayling claimed a revised timetable and the introduction of bi-mode diesel/electric trains on the route would offer faster journey times and more seats for peak-hours journeys.

The decision to cancel electrification had been taken by the Department in March 2017, the argument being that the overall electrification programme for three main routes of the UK rail network was no longer considered viable.

This morning’s report from the Transport Select Committee criticised Mr Grayling and the Department for Transport for their handling of the decision to cancel it.

It said: “It is regrettable that the announcement was not made until July 2017, by written statement on the day the House of Commons rose for its summer recess, limiting the opportunity for detailed scrutiny and debate.”

It added: “While electrification on the scale, and at the pace, envisaged in 2012 has proven unachievable, there is strong evidence that it remains the current optimal solution on heavily-used parts of the railway. The Midland Main Line, Great Western Mainline and Lakes Line schemes cancelled in July 2017 should therefore be recategorised as pending, and placed in the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) for further development and design work.”