Railway fiasco will cripple this city

Sheffield Train Station.
Sheffield Train Station.
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The announcement last month, (July 20,2017), regarding decisions to postpone or cancel several railway electrification projects can only be described as fundamentally flawed.

The decision will leave several major cities dependent upon diesel-powered/bi-modal trains for the foreseeable future. This is a cheap fix and follows a dismal pattern of binary investment decisions regarding the electrification of the mainline railway system within Britain.

Worryingly the internal resistance to main line electrification deep within the DfT seems to have won the day. Having been castigated for a failure to develop this option on a rolling basis to secure the benefit of faster and more reliable trains in 2009/2010 the DfT had a Damascene conversion aided and abetted by Network Rail and supported a range of project proposals including main line electrification, infilling between existing schemes and the development of an electric spine between Southampton and the Midlands/Yorkshire.

The DfT was however always intent on the deployment of bi-modal trains which they had advocated as a replacement for the existing High Speed fleet leading to proposals to electrify the Great Western route which was perversely preferred as the primary route for modernisation.

The cancellation of the Midland Main Line project effectively leaves major cities in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire also condemned to be served by the cheap bi-modal options.

In any sane evaluation it beggars belief that this option is seen as justifiable.

Having “paused” schemes as a consequence of overruns for which they were culpable the Dft and Network Rail have effectively crippled the economic potential of this region and also failed to deliver a more connected electrified rail network.

This leaves the rail sector still with a series of lines which do not provide a national system or coverage. This all has echoes of the position which crippled the WCML scheme under the Modernization Plan of the 1950s and 1960s.

The decisions are short-sighted and fundamentally wrong. The cities affected (Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Loughborough) by the crass decision taken by the Secretary of State aided and abetted by his metropolitan mandarins should be seeking an urgent investigation of the change of strategy taken. Taking this lying down is not the way to go if the cities are to thrive and prosper.

MPs and the relevant local authorities should be bombarding the Secretary of State to make their displeasure about these decisions known.

Philip N Mortimer

by email