Protesters to bring giant plug to Sheffield in bid to reverse scrapping of railway electrification plans

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Environmental campaigners are set to bring a giant plug on a relay journey to Sheffield, in a bid to persuade transport secretary Chris Grayling to reverse the scrapping of railway electrification.

The Midland Main Line was due to be electrified by 2023, in a move transport chiefs said would speed up trains, increase capacity and reduce the need for track maintenance.

But Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sparked outrage with an announcement just before Parliament went into summer recess in July, confirming routes between Nottingham and Sheffield; Cardiff and Swansea; Kettering and Windermere and Oxenholme would not be electrified.

Today environmental campaigners will board a train in London, carrying a giant electrical plug. They will then pass it on at Bedford and the plug will continue in a relay all the way to Sheffield.

Beatrice Greenfield, from Sheffield Friends of the Earth said: “Electrifying the railways would reduce the carbon footprint of travel because electricity generation is rapidly becoming cleaner. Diesel trains also contribute to air pollution, which is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. Switching to electric trains would lead to substantial improvements in air quality in Sheffield, where it contributed to 500 deaths last year.

Local groups all the way along the route are calling on the Government to reverse the decision made in July to cancel plans to electrify the Midland Mainline beyond Kettering. They are asking the Government to ‘plug in’ their trains to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.

During the day, both on the trains and at stations, campaigners will be collecting signatures on a petition asking the Government not to go back on their promise to electrify the railways. The petition was created by two national organisations, 10:10 and the Campaign for Better Transport.

The green plug will arrive at Sheffield station at 4.18pm, after which there will be a rally calling for electrification organised by the Sheffield Climate Alliance, Sheffield Friends of the Earth and Sheffield Green Party.

Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party and Sheffield Green Party member said: “This decision is a further blow to the North, while the government continues to pour money into transport infrastructure in London and the South East.

"The Government talk about ‘rebalancing the economy’ and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ rings particularly hollow in the light of this decision, while we are also seeing a failure to invest in essential east-west services that should link Hull and Liverpool and all the points in between. New diesel trains are no way forward – we need the reliability, speed and cleaner option; we need electric trains.”