Another boost for the Northern Powerhouse, as Government and Network Rail quietly restart "paused" TransPennine and Midland Mainline electrification programmes

Emma Haslett
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Under the plans, sections of electrified lines will be delivered from 2019 (Source: Getty)

It was the "pause" that created uproar among northern commuters - but today the Department for Transport quietly announced it will begin work on the electrification programme of the TransPennine and Midland Mainline routes.

Plans to pause the programme were announced by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin back in June, when he admitted the programme was "costing more and taking longer" than expected.

At the time McLoughlin appointed Sir Peter Hendy (the former Transport for London boss who was quoted calling London commuter trains "shit") to lead Network Rail. Today the DfT said Hendy had delivered a new plan as to how the electrification of the two lines could go ahead.

There's some good news for commuters: a letter from Hendy to McLoughlin insisted works to improve journey times and capacity have continued throughout the summer on both lines, remaining resolutely unpaused.

However, on electrification, he suggested work on the TransPennine route could begin in 2018, finishing in 2022, while the Midland Mainline would be electrified in stages, finishing between 2019 and 2023.

The British Chambers of Commerce called the works "critical" to the success of businesses in the region.

"Businesses were furious when these vital rail upgrades were shelved -- and they will be delighted to see that work is set to resume.
"Network Rail must now demonstrate that it can deliver these upgrades quickly and within budget. Businesses in cities and towns across the Midlands and the North are desperate for improved rail connections and capacity. We cannot afford to see any more stop-start infrastructure projects, as every pause and delay hurts business confidence and ultimately, productivity."
Meanwhile, the Institute for Public Policy Research North said the upgrade "needs to go hand-in-hand with a radical devolution of powers and budget to Transport for the North, to avoid the piecemeal approach to rebuilding the north's creaking infrastructure".

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