UK trains electrification plans derailed by government

The UK Government has scrapped plans to electrify railway lines in the Midlands, the North and Wales. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the government will only electrify lines “where it […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK Government has scrapped plans to electrify railway lines in the Midlands, the North and Wales.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the government will only electrify lines “where it delivers a genuine benefit to passengers”.

He added recent advances in train power technologies means journeys can be improved without the need for “disruptive electrification works” along the routes.

The Department for Transport instead plans to deliver “modern, fast and efficient trains”, with more seats and comfort for long distance passengers.

The Great Western Main Line in south Wales, the Midland Main Line and the Lakes Line between Windermere and Oxenholme will be affected.

The government said it is committed to using the “best available technologies” to improve each part of the network, including “bi-mode” intercity trains that can transfer from diesel power to electric and alternatively-fuelled trains that uses battery and hydrogen power.

The competition to find the next operator for the Midland Main Line is still underway and whichever firm takes over will have to introduce a brand new fleet of bi-mode trains from 2022.

A public consultation on the future of the East Midlands rail franchise has been launched, which will run for 12 weeks.

In Wales, new Intercity Express trains are expected to be rolled out from Autumn this year, “switching seamlessly between electric and diesel power, delivering faster journeys and more seats for passengers without disruptive work to put up wires and masts along routes where they are no longer required”.

Mr Grayling said the government has “listened to concerns about electrification gantries spoiling protected landscapes” in the North.

Train operator Northern is to start exploring the possibilities of deploying alternative fuel trains on the route by 2021, “improving comfort and on-board facilities for passengers whilst protecting the sensitive environment of this World Heritage Site”.

This is expected to remove the need to construct “intrusive wires and masts in this National Park”.

Mr Grayling added: “Rapid delivery of passenger benefits, minimising disruption and engineering work should always be our priority and as technology changes, we must reconsider our approach to modernising the railways.

“We will only electrify lines where it provides a genuine benefit to passengers which cannot be achieved through other technologies.”

The move has been criticised by opposition parties and green groups.