Waiting until 2023 for Sheffield to London rail line ‘isn’t long’ in major projects - says minister

(l-r) Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Patrick McLoughlin MP, takes the receipt of the final report for the independent North of England Electrification Task Force including member Julie Hilling MP and Andrew Jones MP. Picture: Andrew Roe
(l-r) Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Patrick McLoughlin MP, takes the receipt of the final report for the independent North of England Electrification Task Force including member Julie Hilling MP and Andrew Jones MP. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said a rail link scheme between Sheffield and London will take longer so work is done in an ‘orderly fashion.’

The minister spoke after a ‘pause’ on electrifying the Midland Mainline was lifted, which means the line will be upgraded, although it will not reach Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham until 2023.

That is four years later than originally planned under the £1.1 billion scheme.

Network Rail chairman Peter Hendy has now proposed line speed and capacity improvement works already underway for the Midland Mainline are added to, with electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby by 2019.

Derbyshire Dales Conservative MP Mr McLoughlin said: “Basically the delay is to make sure the work is done in an orderly fashion, some of the other improvement works need to be done first.

“If you don’t do the Market Harborough curve before you do the electrification works... one of the most important things is about increasing the capacity.

“What Peter Hendy has done is to look to much more of a holistic approach, so how do we improve the railways and how do we get the capacity levels that we want.”

When asked if he understand why passengers would think waiting until 2023 was a very long time, he added: “In big infrastructure projects it isn’t, they do take time.

“The simple fact is between 1997 and 2010 we electrified in this country ten miles of railway, we are looking to do 800 miles in this project we are talking about now.

“It is difficult. If you think from Derby up to Sheffield, paticularly between Derby and Chesterfield, we’ve got a lot of big tunnels which do cause a lot of extra work as far as electrification is concerned.”

Sheffield organisations and leaders have welcomed the end of the pause.

But Labour MP Harry Harpham, who represents Hillsborough and Brightside, said: “The reality is that these projects will now be delivered years late, harming the economy in the midlands and the north.

“Thanks to ministers’ incompetence jobs have been lost during the so-called ‘pause’, resources shifted to other projects, and it’ll now take longer and cost more.”