UK: Work to electrify the trans-Pennine and Midland Main Line routes is to resume with completion envisaged by 2023, Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin announced on September 30.

Following significant delays and cost over-runs on the electrification of the Great Western Main Line from London to Bristol and South Wales, on June 25 McLoughlin announced that Network Rail’s works programme for Control Period 5 from 2014 to 2019 would be reviewed and ‘reset’.

Planning for trans-Pennine and Midland Main Line electrification was ‘paused’ pending this review, which is being undertaken by Sir Peter Hendy who was appointed as NR Chairman. While the review is still underway, on September 29 Hendy wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport advising how the work could continue, and as a result McLoughlin has asked NR to unpause the two projects.

NR will now work with the Department for Transport and regional body Rail North to develop a ‘firm detailed design’ by the end of 2017 for 25 kV 50 Hz electrification of the trans-Pennine route from Stalybridge near Manchester to Leeds, York and Selby. Hendy has advised McLoughlin that electrification works could begin in 2018, for completion by the end of 2022.

DfT said this project would focus on ‘delivering key passenger benefits as quickly as possible’, and provide ‘faster journey times and significantly more capacity’, with six fast or semi-fast trains per hour and Manchester – York journey times reduced by up to 15 min. This would be ‘an improvement on the previous plan which only changed the power supply of the trains’.

Hendy has also proposed adding electrification to line speed and capacity improvement works underway on the Midland Main Line, with electrification from Bedford as far as Kettering and Corby by 2019 and to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield by 2023.

Hendy has advised McLoughlin that while unpausing the two projects would ‘create a further significant spending pressure’ within the CP5 funding plan, his review is to set out what NR could do the mitigate the impact on other works, and much of the costs would fall within CP6.

‘The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers’, said Hendy. ‘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’.

The Rail Delivery Group which represents NR and train operators welcomed the announcement as ‘good news’, emphasising that ‘it is important to have continued and sustained investment’.

The announcement was ‘absolutely great news for the North of England’, according to Nick Donovan, Managing Director of current franchise holder First Transpennine Express. He said FTPE has ‘experienced a huge increase in the demand for rail travel over the past few years and rail travel has never been as popular. This news today will give a real boost to people's confidence in the investment that has been promised and will help to establish the North as a major player within the UK's economy.’