City rail snub rocks Powerhouse scheme

Rail electrification work
Rail electrification work
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Business leaders in Sheffield City Region have condemned plans to halt rail electrification insisting it will harm the northern economy, hit businesses and commuters and undermine the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ plan.

Council, Local Enterprise Partnership and Chamber chiefs are calling on ministers to set a date for work to re-start after transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin ‘paused’ the £38bn project, saying it was taking too long and costing too much.

Schemes that will be affected include the electrification of the Midland Mainline and Manchester to Leeds route.

Coun Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, chair of the Combined Authority - representing the region’s nine councils, said he was extremely disappointed.

He added: “We sincerely hope this does not impact on the planned improvements to Sheffield train station and the Hope Valley line which are key components in the Northern Powerhouse.”

James Newman, chair of Sheffield City Region LEP, said: “Local business leaders will be very disappointed in a pause in work on the last mainline to London to be electrified.

“The region is home to a number of rail businesses and the uncertainty created by today’s announcement will impact on their confidence.”

Peter Kennan, chair of Sheffield Chamber Transport Forum, said: “Businesses have every right to be disappointed at this announcement. How long is that pause and could the whole electrification project be kicked into the long grass as too costly and difficult to achieve at a time where Network Rail has to rein in and get better control of its finances?

“Worse still could the electrification from London to Sheffield finish short of Sheffield, leaving the City Region at a competitive disadvantage?”

Andrew Denniff, Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber chief, said the decision showed the Northern Powerhouse was “just talk”.

He added: “If we are to see the economic growth we aspire to, we need the infrastructure to support it.”