TransPennine Express Nova 3 Class 68 (Photo: Tony Miles)

UK: Industry sources report that there is now ‘every chance’ of the entire trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds being electrified, rather than only the western portion as far as Stalybridge and then east from Huddersfield to Leeds. Passenger and freight operators are understood to be working together to fully develop plans.

One industry insider said it was becoming increasing difficult for politicians who have set the objective of removing diesel-only trains from the network by 2040 to also say the route would not be fully electrified, while freight operators have no obvious options for replacing diesel other than full electrification.

Previous suggestions by Network Rail that some of the tunnels on the route would prove to be too difficult to wire are now being rolled back; sources suggest only around 1% of the long Standedge Tunnel between Greenfield and Marsden will need additional work for wiring and clearance for W12 gauge freight trains. Nearby Scout Tunnel, 188 m long, is more challenging but shorter than the 270 m Farnworth Tunnel which was re-bored for electrification in 2015.

The ongoing wiring of the 8 km section between Church Fenton and Colton Junction is being taken forward to allow bi-mode Class 802 sets to switch from diesel to electric power on the move. This section had the strongest business case for wiring because it will enable maximum use of routes capable of 200 km/h operation in the future, and insiders hope its wiring will ‘get DfT on side to fill the gap between Church Fenton and Neville Hill’ east of Leeds.

A senior TransPennine Express insider has told Rail Business UK that wiring over the Pennines would offer it the ability to replace the Class 68 diesel locomotives with electric traction ‘now we know that the future is not diesel’. The operator and leasing company Beacon Rail will need to look at whether to redeploy the these Nova 3 sets onto other routes routes in the medium term or whether to look at alternative traction options.