We’re not sure whether this counts as news or not, nor whether unpaused is a real word.
On reading the Department for Transport press release, plus the exchange of letters between the Chair of Network Rail and the Secretary of State for Transport, it becomes apparent that although it produces a few good newspaper headlines, it adds precisely nothing to the sum of human knowledge.
Hence our hesitation in reporting something which is a bit of a non-story.
The original announcement about electrification goes back to 2011, to be delivered by 2016, or maybe 2018. Now it’s 2022, possibly.
In terms of what it promises, there’s a promise of six fast (“or semi-fast”) trains per hour between Manchester and Leeds by 2022 (ish, possibly). This is remarkably similar to what was announced in 2011 only 6 years delayed. We have a vague recollection that it’s the same as was promised even earlier when it was branded as the Northern Hub.
There’s nothing about whether there’s any benefit to the places in between, like the half-hourly service that we ought to have at Slaithwaite & Marsden. That would be in the detail, rather than the headline and the press release. Only it turns out there isn’t any detail.
There isn’t even the terms of reference of the review. Is this about getting more fast trains between Manchester and Leeds at the lowest possible cost (in which case the easiest way to do it is to reduce the service to those awkward places which have the temerity to be somewhere in between), or is it about doing a thorough job properly – providing sufficent capacity to meet demand for the next 40 years, including providing an improved service to the places in between? There’s still no answer to that, and some mixed and contradictory messages coming out of the various bits of the railway industry.
Department for Transport press release follows.
Work to electrify TransPennine and Midland Mainline railways will resume under plans announced today, Wednesday 30 September 2015, as part of Sir Peter Hendy’s work to reset Network Rail’s upgrade programme.
Sir Peter Hendy has outlined to the Secretary of State for Transport how work could continue. The Secretary of State has replied to the Chair of Network Rail asking Network Rail to un-pause this work.
Network Rail will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and Rail North to develop a new plan for electrification of the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and Leeds and on to York and Selby to focus on delivering key passenger benefits as quickly as possible. This is an improvement on the previous plan which only changed the power supply of the trains.
The new plan will deliver faster journey times and significantly more capacity between Manchester, Leeds and York. The upgrade is expected to provide capacity for 6 fast or semi-fast trains per hour, take up to 15 minutes off today’s journey time between Manchester and York and be complete by 2022. When the work is finished, the whole route from Liverpool to Newcastle (via Manchester, Leeds and York) will be fully electrified and journey times will be significantly reduced compared to today’s railway.
The total programme of rail electrification and upgrades will completely transform the railways for passengers in the north and Midlands and help ensure that every part of Britain benefits from a growing economy.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:
As a one nation government we are making sure every part of Britain benefits from a growing economy. Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse. This government will see the job through and build a better, faster and more reliable railway for passengers in the north and Midlands.
Chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy 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”.