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DfT 'must clarify' fates of two electrification schemes

photo 14 cropped

The fates of two electrification schemes could be heading towards completely opposite conclusions. 

While the scrapped Swansea to Cardiff electrification project receives further backing to be revived, electrification of the Trans-Pennine route is reportedly set to be taken off the table for good. 

The Trans-Pennine electrification, part of Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project, was put ‘‘on hold’’ in 2015 due to rising costs. However, a decision has now reportedly been made to scrap the scheme entirely, according to the Sunday Times.

Northern leaders have said that axing the project between Manchester and Leeds would ‘‘spark real anger and outrage’’. 

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said that the government “must clarify its position immediately”.

He said: “If the report is true it will spark real anger and outrage across the North of England.

“People here have been at the back of the queue for transport investment for as long as any of us can remember and this would leave promises of a Northern Powerhouse in tatters.”

The revelation comes on the back of months of chaos on Northern rail services and official government backing of a £14bn expansion at London Heathrow.

“At a time when we are looking to phase out diesel cars, it seems that this government thinks it is acceptable to have diesel trains running across the North of England for decades to come,” Burnham added. “That tells you all you need to know about how they view the North.”

Meanwhile, calls to revive the scrapped south Wales project have been strengthened by a transport body saying it could be carried out at a third of the estimated cost. 

Lobbying body Campaign to Electrify Britain’s Railway (CEBR) told New Civil Engineer that the Swansea to Cardiff line could be electrified for around a third of the current estimate of around £3M per kilometre.

It comes after the Commons transport select committee threw its weight behind reviving electrifcation of the Great Western Mainline. 

CEBR spokesperson Noel Dolphin said by having a rolling programme of electrification, rather than the previous “boom and bust” cycle, the costs could be managed better.

“On the mega-projects, you need to employ a huge number of contractors on day rates because no one can be employed on a project which is going to stop in a year,” he said. “You have to learn all of the skills again, buy new plant again.

“It’s a constant expense because in a year’s time the project won’t exist and there won’t be another one for a number of years so all of those costs have to be sunk onto the one project.

“It affects the cost and unit rate compared to a gradual say 40-year programme of slowly electrifying the railway. I think the costs would be significantly lower.”

Dolphin said the Wales project could be compared to the size and scale of the electrification of the the Edinburgh to Glasgow line. He said that the project in Scotland had been delivered at around £1.1M per track kilometre, as opposed to the £3.5M per track kilomoetre spent on electrifying the Great Western Mainline. This had been achieved by carrying out the electrification work in smaller packages over a longer time, in a similar way to projects on the Continent.

He also said that in Wales, the expensive connection to the power grid had already been installed before the decision to scrap the scheme, reducing the cost of electrifying the route even more.

The Department for Transport has yet to clarify its stance on either scheme. 

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