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TfN boss outlines alternative Trans-Pennine electrification plan

Electrification

Transport for the North’s (TfN) strategy director has revealed an alternative plan for the electrification of the Trans-Pennine line.

Speaking at New Civil Engineer’s UK Transport conference, TfN interim strategy director Jonathan Spruce said it had taken a long time to get leaders in the North to stop demanding electrification of some of the region’s routes.

He described electrification as an output rather than an outcome and said that electrification of the current Trans-Pennine route may not be the right choice.

“What you want is a cleaner faster railway, faster acceleration,” he said. “The technology which did that 10 years ago was electrification, but in 10 years’ time, when you come to build the line between Leeds and Manchester that might not be the right answer.”

While not ruling out electrification entirely, he said electrifying the Trans-Pennine route raised “red flags” which included having to lower sections of track through Victorian tunnels while maintaining an operational railway.

Spruce said the long-term vision for the region was to increase capacity by building a new section of railway from Leeds to Manchester via Bradford. Efforts to upgrade connections between the two cities should be co-ordinated with this plan and the government should approve the decision and give the industry clarity, he said.

“You come back to: if the new long-term plan is a new line from Leeds to Manchester via Bradford, let’s make that either electrified or [power it] with the new technologies available,” he said. 

“The problem is that at the moment, the government hasn’t committed to doing the new line, so at the moment that’s not the offer on the table.”

He added he would like to see the north of England used as a test bed for new rail technologies

“We’ve been talking to the leaders and saying: ’why shouldn’t the north be the trial for new technologies?’,” he said. “In the Tees Valley they’re trialling new hydrogen power at the moment and so if we’re looking at improving Darlington to Saltburn why don’t you do that first off.

“Why don’t you have that as the first bit in the north of England. It doesn’t have to be somewhere else.”

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