Final push in campaign to electrify railway link

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CIVIC leaders in Sheffield are making a final push in the campaign for the city’s rail link with London to be electrified – with a decision on the project due in a few weeks.

Rotherham-born Transport Secretary Justine Greening will have the final say in July about whether the £500 million scheme for the Midland Main Line should be included in Network Rail’s major investment schedule for 2014-19.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam MP, said he is ‘making the case to the Government’ for the scheme.

Meanwhile, James Newman, chairman of Sheffield City region Local Enterprise Partnership, the regional development agency, and Coun Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, are among 12 political and industry figures from along the route to sign a letter to the Government.

In their letter, they say independent research shows electrification would:

■ Cut journey times;

■ Reduce running costs of the railway by up to £60 million per year due to lighter trains being more energy-efficient and causing less wear to tracks;

■ Result in £450 million of wider economic benefits over a number of years for towns and cities along the route;

■ Create more capacity for freight trains;

■ Cut carbon dioxide emissions from trains on the route by 13,000 tonnes per year;

■ Potentially link with the planned high-speed network for areas not included on the new lines.

The letter says electrification would ‘unlock huge potential for economic growth’.

Mr Clegg said: “I have spent a lot of time in the early years of Government focusing on ensuring South Yorkshire is on the route for high-speed rail, but I am behind improving the Midland Main Line as well.”

About £40 million is being spent by Network Rail in the next couple of years to increase line speeds on the Midland Main Line, so the quickest journey between Sheffield and London could be brought down from two hours and seven minutes to about two hours.

The Department for Transport said it could not comment ahead of the decision on the scheme.