Government sparks backlash after rail electrification plans are derailed

Rebecca Smith
Electrification of the Great Western Mainline had previously been delayed on several routes
Electrification of the Great Western Mainline had previously been delayed on several routes (Source: Getty)

The government has sparked a backlash over the announcement today that planned electrification of railway lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North has been scrapped.

Plans for the line from Cardiff to Swansea, the Midland mainline and tracks in the Lake District have been ditched.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said that instead, faster trains with more seats and better on-board facilities will be rolled out.

Read more: Chris Grayling says he'll do all he can to make Crossrail 2 work

He said: "Passenger numbers on the UK rail network have more than doubled since privatisation 20 years ago and our country’s railways need to adapt and change to be able to meet current and future demand.

"Therefore we are delivering the largest upgrade of the rail network since Victorian times, including modernising rail services and infrastructure on the Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line and in the north."

But Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said:

The Tories have been promising the electrification of the Great Western Mainline from Paddington to Swansea since 2012 and today's announcement confirms that they have been taking people for a ride.

Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary Jenny Randerson said: "The Liberal Democrats secured vital investment for rail electrification when in government. That was then delayed by the Tories and now has been scrapped altogether."

Electrification had been in the spotlight after costs ballooned, with a report from the Public Accounts Committee in March saying the electrification of the Great Western line was "a stark example of how not to run a project". It followed the news that electrification had been delayed across four routes in November of last year.

The estimated cost of the Great Western Main Line electrification programme rose by a "staggering and unacceptable" £1.2bn in the space of a year, the Committee said. And it said it was unclear as to whether the project could be delivered to the revised target of 2018 with a budget of £2.8bn.

For Great Western, new Hitachi trains will come into service in the autumn, switching to diesel on sections of the route that Network Rail has failed to electrify.

Originally, Network Rail's electrification works had been described as crucial upgrades to bring faster and more reliable services for people, the government today said passengers will reap the benefits of "modern bi-mode trains" instead, removing the need for "intrusive wires and masts" and creating "less disruption to services and local communities".

Routes between Cardiff and Swansea, and between Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield, and Windermere to Oxenholme will be affected.

Read more: Great Western electrification might miss revised 2018 target, MPs warn

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