Thursday, 25 June 2015

East Midlands railway electrification is postponed (cancelled)

Bad news

Whilst this post was being written this BBC news item has emerged confirming the cut.

Last night BelperStuff attended the AGM of the Civic Forum. A main feature of the evening was the presence of  Network Rail who gave an update to the railway electrification scheme and how it affects the line through Belper. It all seemed very reassuring with the target date for electric trains through Belper in 2020. There were continued assurances of full consultation on planned work to the Belper bridges with plans for the type of masts to carry the overhead wires still to be decided. Leaving No.28 I am sure that many felt comfortable about the scheme.
An East Midlands diesel train leaves Milford Tunnel

But ....... (yes I was taught never to start a sentence with the word "but") ..... but nobody asked the simple question, "is the scheme in danger of being cancelled?" On that same day an article in the Guardian warned of a possible announcement that the Midland Main Line electrification could be cancelled Network Rail funding gap article in the Guardian. Just weeks after the election where the Tories boasted about their commitment to rail investment they are now backtracking, the modernisation of the East Midlands route being slated for cancellation. It is even more galling because the announcement will be made by a Derbyshire MP, the current Minister for Transport, Patrick McLaughlin.

I am reminded of his performance in 2013 when he jeered at a former Minister for Transport, Alistair Darling, when the latter warned that the spiralling costs of the HS2 scheme would have the effect of cutting investment on the existing network link to BBC item in 2013, HS2 costs could mean railway nightmare

In another 2013 interview McLaughlin was bullish about his commitment to rail investment:

We hope that the Guardian article is incorrect and that the electrification of the route between Sheffield and London is not cut. McLaughlin has made himself a hostage to fortune by insisting that his government will invest unprecedented amounts of money into the existing rail network, even to the extent of stating that under the Tories there will be no cost overruns so there is no question of cancellations of rail investment schemes. I hope he honours that commitment.

For an overview of the route and the electrification scheme this Wikipedia article is very informative.

I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that this scheme will be cancelled as there are a whole raft of interlinked plans that would be affected. A new fleet of InterCity trains is being built in a brand new factory near Darlington. These trains are destined for the Great Western route between London and Bristol etc., the East Coast mainline between London, Leeds and Edinburgh and also the West Coast mainline between London and Birmingham/Manchester/Liverpool and Glasgow. A number of electric trains were due to be cascaded from the East and West coast routes onto the newly electrified Midland Mainline If this does not happen we will still rely on HST trains for our journeys to London that were built in 1976 and which were planned for withdrawal when electrification is completed. If the electrification does not happen these trains will have to run for many years to come.

BelperStuff is an enthusiastic supporter of the line being electrified through Belper. It will have an immediate effect on air quality as electric trains are far more efficient in the use of energy with costs being one third cheaper than diesel trains. With faster acceleration station stops are also less time consuming with say a stop at Belper adding 3 minutes to the overall journey time whilst with diesel trains it is 4 minutes. Electrification makes the argument for more Sheffield - London - Sheffield trains calling at Belper much more compelling.

Continuing the environmental theme, cancellation effectively stops the plan to create an electrified freight spine from Southampton through to the North East which would have replaced many of the diesel locomotives passing through Belper with non-polluting electric locomotives.

All this in jeopardy because of Tory right wing dogma and the drive to create a budgetary surplus within the next 3 years .......... because that is what is really behind this proposal. They have learnt nothing. The way forward must be to invest in infrastructure which in turn generates growth leading to enhanced tax revenues which naturally bring about a balanced budget without any need of cuts.

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