The electrification of the TransPennine and Midland Mainline railways will resume after the controversial ‘pause’ of the projects this summer, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.
In one of his first public acts as new Network Rail chair, Sir Peter Hendy has gained permission from transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to work with Government and the local authority group Rail North on a new plan for the lines.
The DfT said the scheme to electrify the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and Leeds and on to York and Selby would be brought within wider work to improve the capacity and speed of the service.
By bringing these two formally separate projects under one umbrella, DfT hopes to 'minimise disruption' on the busy line.
The upgrade, to be completed by 2022, is expected to take up to 15 minutes off journey times between Manchester and York with 'fast or semi-fast' services every 10 minutes.
The work will also see the whole TransPennine route from Liverpool to Newcastle, via Manchester, Leeds and York, fully electrified.
For the Midland Mainline, Sir Peter has proposed electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby can be completed by 2019 and the line North of Kettering to Leicester, Derby/Nottingham and Sheffield by 2023.
Sir Peter said: ‘The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. 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 to electrify TransPennine and Midland Mainline.’
The former transport commissioner at Transport for London was recently brought into Network Rail after a difficult delivery period saw the rail operator have to suspend projects.
Over the last year several major schemes that had been part of multi-billion improvement plans had suffered overruns, with the public on many occasions left outside stations in a crush or the cold.
The pause of these two electrification projects had proven particularly controversial with local politicians rallying to build cross-party support to reinstate them.
New Northern and TransPennine rail franchise awards will be announced before the end of the year.
The new franchises aim to replace unpopular Pacer trains with new carriages – a populist move that is reported to have raised concerns among senior civil servants regarding its value for money.