A Sheffield MP has said that a ‘damning’ report and further cuts could delay rail electrification in Sheffield for up to five years.
Heeley MP Louise Haigh said that the Spending Review and two reports into rail infrastructure investment published on the same day could add further delays to the Midland Mainline and Transpennine Express routes
Ms Haigh expressed her anger that the government ‘sought to conceal’ the confirmation that the projects to electrify the lines will not be delivered by trying to ‘sneak it out’ late in the afternoon on the same day as the Autumn Statement.
But she said that the projects could yet be dragged even further into the future because of the huge cuts announced in day-to-day spending in the Department of Transport by the Chancellor.
Ms Haigh said: “Ministers have cynically tried to hide the confirmation that mainline electrification will take up to five years longer to reach Sheffield than originally planned by sneaking out Sir Peter Hendy’s report on the same day as the Spending Review.
“A separate report, also published on Wednesday, raised ‘deep concerns’ at the process of planning and oversight within the Department for Transport and indicated that this contributed to delays and cost increases on the project as a whole.”
“In this context, it is astonishing that the Government have announced a further 37% cut to the DfT budget - taking the cut in day-to-day spending at the Department to 70% since 2010. This despite warnings from the top Parliamentary committee and the National Audit Office that the shortage of skilled staff after the 2010 Spending Review was affecting their ability to deliver on major projects.
“In light of this and following Ministers’ initial broken promises over rail electrification and ongoing problems at Network Rail, people across Sheffield and Yorkshire have a right to ask how much longer they’ll be waiting for the rail investment which was supposed to kick-start the Northern Powerhouse project.”
Transport Minister, Patrick McLoughlin said: “Firstly, I want to be absolutely clear that no infrastructure schemes have been cancelled.
“Flagship improvement works to build a Northern Powerhouse in the north and the Midlands are underway, helping to rebalance our country’s economy by creating an engine for growth.
“Electrification of the TransPennine and Midland Main Line has already resumed and will completely transform the railways by improving city to city connectivity.
“It is absolutely crucial that our infrastructure is delivered efficiently and continues to represent the best value for money.