The time has come for the Government to finally deliver on electrifying the entire Midland Main Line after a Network Rail report featured the scheme in a wider clean transport vision, says East Midlands Chamber.
The UK’s railway operator has set out plans to electrify 4,800 miles of railway lines – including tracks in the Midlands stretching hundreds of miles – by 2050.
Its Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy involves a combination of high-speed electric, hydrogen and battery-powered passenger and freight trains.
In 2017, the Department for Transport scrapped £1.1bn plans to electrify the whole of the line from London St Pancras to Sheffield.
This has since been replaced with an electrification programme that only goes as far north as Market Harborough, with “bi-mode” trains running on electricity for part of the route before switching to diesel.
But the Chamber has joined calls from other bodies, including Midlands Connect, to reinstate the original scheme immediately and get on with work that is ready to go.
Scott Knowles, chief executive at East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “Electrifying our railways is an ambitious strategy that should be welcomed across the board because it has both economic and environmental benefits that fit today’s and tomorrow’s demands.
“Electric trains are cleaner, lighter, more resilient and require less maintenance than diesel trains – which are often responsible for creating emissions hotspots around the railway stations that are supposed to signify sustainability in the transport sector.
“Not only are Network Rail’s plans consistent with the Government’s UK net zero 2050 strategy, but it would bring closer integration with HS2, including the planned East Midlands hub at Toton that remains essential to the region’s growth.
“Previous assessments have shown how improvements to the Midland Main Line deliver a fantastic benefit-cost ratio and would have a greater return on investment than similar schemes anywhere else in the country. However, promises to electrify the entire line have not been met and the region has missed out on the economic prosperity this could bring.
“Infrastructure investment is now at the heart of the Government’s economic recovery strategy so we’d hope that this report will pave the way for the scheme to finally be delivered in full.
“All the planning is in place to make this happen as soon as the green light is given so now is the time to get on with it in order to deliver its benefits as soon as possible.”
The Network Rail Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy report can be read here, with the relevant sections for the East Midlands found on page (numbered page 224 in the document).
It has been issued by Network Rail to the Treasury as a programme business case for making improvements to rail infrastructure.