Local leaders have expressed fury at the government’s decision to pull the plug on electrification of South Wales and the Midlands.
Concerned at ever-escalating costs, plans to wire up the line between Cardiff and Swansea have been short circuited. In the Midlands wires will end at Kettering. The line north to Sheffield and Nottingham will not now be electrified. Similar plans to electrify the Oxenholme – Windermere branch in the Lake District have also been earthed.
An optimistic DfT stressed new bi-mode trains – capable of running on diesel engines as well as electric – would in fact improve services beyond Kettering and Cardiff.
With distressing chronology, the government a few days later announced diesel engines would be phased out by 2040. This applies only to road vehicles. However, clean air campaigners believe full-throttle diesels are fated for the choker.
Back in London, Transport supremo Chris Grayling has moved to re-assure the industry that Crossrail 2 – the north-south London link – will go ahead.
In a startling choice of terminology, Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, said, ‘Over recent weeks there have been growing concerns that Crossrail 2 would be quietly dropped. Today’s joint statement by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, offering their full throttle support to this vital infrastructure project, is excellent news for both London and the whole of the UK.’
North-south, sparks continue to fly as north country leaders and the Welsh accuse the Westminster government of London-centric transport priorities.
Says Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan, ‘It’s extremely disappointing news after such a long campaign with powerful agreement between all the parties and businesses here. I’ve spoken to Chris Grayling about this and told him what I think. Again, the East Midlands is losing out because of cost overruns with other rail projects elsewhere. There are a lot of questions around these bi-mode trains that still need to be answered.’
Morgan, who is treasury select committee chairman added, ‘I never give up. The argument for electrification has not gone away.’