‘Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse.
There was uproar in June when it was announced that the electrification of the TransPennine route and the Midland Mainline between London and Sheffield was being delayed indefinitely.
In his response to Mr Hendy Mr McLoughlin said: “I have always been clear that these schemes were paused and not cancelled and I am now accepting your advice that work can be restarted”.
Ministers pulled the plug on electrifying the TransPennine and Midland Main Line routes – key to George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” – because they were “costing more and taking longer” than expected. The new franchises will deliver new train carriages and remove out-dated Pacer trains; introduce free WiFi on trains; and offer a one-third increase in capacity with 200 additional services on weekdays and Saturdays and 300 more train services on Sundays.
“People can expect more services and faster journeys”.
For example, the wires will not reach Kettering and Corby until 2019, whereas the original plan had been for electrification to stretch to Derby, Leicester and Nottingham by then.
“Network Rail must now demonstrate that it can deliver these upgrades quickly and within budget”.
Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, said the “temporary pause” had “given us the space to develop a better plan”.
But the company insisted the three-month delay had allowed it to “develop a better plan for passengers”.
Northern Powerhouse Minister and Stockton South MP James Wharton said: “When electrification was paused to be reviewed many claimed it would never happen, but it is happening and it is welcome”.
But he also signalled a shift away from the Government’s previous focus on electrification as the main way to improve rail journeys in the North.
New contracts for operation of the Northern and TransPennine rail franchises will be awarded before the end of the year, McLoughlin said.
The move comes before Sir Peter Hendy has completed his review into what upgrades Network Rail will be able to carry out this decade, raising further questions about the government’s role in dealing with the infrastructure operator.
“I would urge the Government to revisit this decision and look for ways in which this important programme can be sped-up”.
“The electrification of the Midlands Main Line is critical to the delivery of a modern, cost effective and reliable transport system serving the economy of the East Midlands and its central importance is highlighted by the unified approach taken by business, political and local authority leaders in campaigning to get electrification back on track”.
“The delay to this work will impact on many rail businesses in the Sheffield City Region, as well the various supply chains which will have been readying themselves for work to be completed so much sooner”.