Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Grayling ordered rail leaders to hold off announcing delay to Manchester scheme

3116167 pb manchester metrolink

Transport secretary Chris Grayling ordered rail leaders to hold off on an announcement about delays to an electrification project between Manchester and Preston until after a House of Commons debate on the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) policies.

A series of emails from January 2018 – obtained by the Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act – reveals that Grayling ordered rail leaders to postpone a public announcement about further delays to the scheme until after the Commons discussion which largely focused on transparency within the DfT. 

The upgrade work, part of the Great North Rail Project, was eventually completed in January this year, more than two years later than the original completion date of December 2016.

In one email from January 2018, a senior DfT official told rail industry leaders that Grayling did not want the delay to the electrification project in the North West to be made public until after the rail franchising debate led by Labour the following day.

An email from a senior DfT figure states: “The [Secretary of State] would prefer the announcement (of the delay to the electrification upgrade project) were sooner rather than later but not before the opposition day debate on rail tomorrow afternoon/evening.”

Instead, the email suggests that an announcement was “best choreographed” for Thursday 11 January 2018, the day after the debate in parliament.

An email from Network Rail route managing director in the North West Martin Frobisher, sent on the same day, reveals: “The Secretary of State has asked that we get the announcement out as soon as possible. He doesn’t want a big press release or media event.

“He wants us to directly brief selected journalists. He wants us to control the story, rather than wait for a leak to the media.”

The emails were sent on January 9, one day before the Commons debate on rail franchising.

The delay was announced the day following the debate with “poor ground conditions” setting the project completion date back from May until “Summer 2018”.

The project was pushed back again following a “crisis meeting” in May 2018 following the introduction of a new timetable which led to massive delays across the network. In the end, the electrification scheme was not completed until early this year.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State asked for the announcement to be made as soon as possible.

“This was done as soon as appropriate clearances were in place - as is reasonable for an announcement of this type.” 

Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Michael Thorn

    The sad fact is that we do not believe or trust the Department for Transport and its politicians any more. There have been so many oblique statements, programme failures, broken promises and lame excuses surrounding rail projects - Crossrail, HS2, electrification, storm protection - that all credibility has been lost and replaced by a wide-spread cynicism. And the senior managers of these projects are taking home obscene sums of money, far beyond what a competent and experienced civil engineer can expect. The industry is broken, but no-one seems willing or able to fix it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.