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Midland Main Line Electrification Approved – At last!
Full Northern Hub Goes Aheadby Graham Collett
The Government’s long awaited High Level Output Statement (HLOS) for 2014-2019 - published just before the Parliamentary recess – brought very welcome (and surprising) news. The Midland Main Line (MML) electrification (£800 million) from Bedford to Sheffield finally got the go-ahead. Even more good news was the approval for the remainder of the Northern Hub scheme (£322 million), leading to a double celebration for rail campaigners in Yorkshire, Manchester and the East Midlands. The announcement also included approval for extension of lectrification from Micklefield to Selby (with a turnback provided at Micklefield for local trains) and the connection to the East Coast Main Line (ECML), enabling the original GNER plan of an “Electric Horseshoe” (ie Leeds to London by two routes) to be achieved. The Selby electrification is very welcome, but will it continue to Hull? (see page 6 for more on this). Other improvements in Yorkshire include: Huddersfield Station capacity enhancement; West Yorkshire platform lengthening (including Leeds); South Yorkshire platform lengthening, and depot and stabling enhancement for extra trains.
Railfuture Branches along the MML had long campaigned for the upgrading and electrification of the route, with strong support from MPs along the route, East Midlands Councils and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (including a report commissioned from ARUP last November – see YRC17). The approval of the full Northern Hub means that the current inchpoints at Manchester Piccadilly and elsewhere on the cross-regional routes will be opened up, enabling more frequent services which are needed to meet the ever-increasing demand.
The HLOS announcement covered many other significant schemes, including a ring-fenced fund of £240million for upgrading of the ECML (see page 2 for details),and a Southampton-Midlands/Yorkshire ‘Electric Spine’, which should enable more through electric passenger and freight services. Chris Hyomes, Branch Chair, welcomed the HLOS: “We are very pleased that the government have recognised the benefit in good, modern electric rail services for helping to boost the much-needed economic recovery. We particularly welcome the approval of the MML electrification, which those of us in the rail lobby have long been pressing for. But it needs to go further – to Leeds and Doncaster – to ensure we make the best use of the new electric spine and to achieve the most efficient operation of the expected new electric trains.”