Rail Minister Huw Merriman

UK: Suggestions that the Transpennine Route Upgrade may be scaled back in response to funding constraints were rejected by Transport Minister Huw Merriman when questioned by Rail Business UK.

During a visit to Manchester Victoria on May 25 Merriman insisted that rumours that electrification through the core section between Stalybridge and Huddersfield was being cancelled or postponed were not correct.

‘I can tell you that nothing’s been put in front of my desk that tells me otherwise’, he said. ‘We are committed to do the Transpennine Route Upgrade, electrifying that line all the way over to York. £9bn to £11bn worth of spend and that’s the platform for us to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail.’

This assurance was echoed by Managing Director of Network Rail’s North West & Central Region Tim Shoveller, who added ‘the reality is that you can see the government is still trying to invest in rail; look at the money that’s been taken out of road schemes, for example.

‘The Department for Transport and Treasury want to make these big schemes happen, but at the same time, they want to be sure that we’re delivering the schemes effectively and efficiently. It’s important that every option is considered and that we’re really clear what is being built before we start. Personally, I’m sure that the wires will go all the way from Manchester to Leeds.’

Manchester Victoria looking towards Salford Central

Photos: Tony Miles

Northern Trains Performance & Planning Director Rob Warnes told Rail Business UK ‘Northern is supposed to get the local services remapped and I am being asked, as part of my rolling stock strategy from DfT, to buy extra electric trains to do those local Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, York services. I’m not going to buy electric trains if they’re not going to run and if it’s not going to be wired.’

Warnes did caution that there may be some voices calling for a scaling back of the project and, given a previous decision to leave the section unwired before it was reversed, insisted that any future similar proposals must be challenged.

‘The Treasury may bring in some consultants who will come up with some wacky ideas, but the aim is to have an electric Transpennine Route’, he said. ‘It’s the only way you’re going to get those extra freight trains across the route and that won’t happen unless they’re hauled electrically. There’s also no point doing all the W12 gauging for freight if it’s not going to happen.

‘I’m sure people are dabbling, but we’ve got to see them off this time, because we didn’t do a good enough job last time.’

During his visit, Merriman also insisted that HS2 will be delivered all the way through to Manchester and that the timescale for it to reach the city is unchanged.

He told reporters ‘we’re talking about the tens of billions that we’re investing in delivering HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. So there’s no scaling back in HS2 when it comes to Manchester; the delivery date remains in place. In terms of the section from the Midlands up to Crewe, that’s rebased by two years but that has no impact on our delivery date for Manchester. We will deliver HS2 all the way to Manchester and we will deliver the faster trains to Leeds as well.’