Is full electrification in Calderdale still on track?

Stephen Waring
Stephen Waring

Fears are growing that the promised full electrification of the Manchester to Leeds rail route may be cancelled.

An announcement on the Transpennine route upgrade will be made later this year, with Rail Minister Jo Johnson telling MP’s that the scheme will include “major civil engineering projects and electrification” but did not guarantee full electrification.

Holly Lynch, MP, Labour Halifax, pictured in the Piece Hall.'21 September 2017.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Holly Lynch, MP, Labour Halifax, pictured in the Piece Hall.'21 September 2017. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Mr Johnson said the government was waiting for a Network Rail report about the upgrade, but the minister has been accused of reneging on their commitment to the North of England.

Stephen Waring, chair of the Halifax and Dsitrict Rail Action group, said: “The truth is that electrification of the Huddersfield line should have been well under way by now.

“But sadly the scope of the delayed scheme has been in doubt for nearly a year.

“In July 2017 the government cancelled electrification schemes in South Wales, the East Midland and the Windermere branch.

“We know know that Network Rail has produced options for the TransPennine Route Upgrade, meaning the Huddersfield Line, and the Secretary of State has said phased work will start next Spring.

“What exactly the options are or what they mean by “phased” we don’t know. Nobody seems to be saying as yet.

“Electrified railways are the way forward if we are to create a modern system that is much more attractive to travellers, clean and quiet, economical to run and, above all, becomes zero-emission and zero carbon. With moves towards decarbonising road transport railways have to play a full part in improving air quality and combatting climate change.

“On the Calder Valley line, four rail user groups including HADRAG launched the Electric Railway Charter this year. We want a rolling programme of electrification across the North based on the recommendations of the Northern Electrification Task force more than three years ago.

“The task force assumed an electric Huddersfield line was a given, and identified a further 12 routes for an initial five-year programme. Scoring on economic, operational and environmental gave top ranking to the “full” Calder Valley Line.

“This means the lines from Leeds to both Manchester and Preston going through Bradford, Halifax, Brighouse and upper Calderdale. As an equally strategic route, our line follows naturally after the Huddersfield line.

“Electric trains are ideal for hilly routes across the Pennines enabling better acceleration and quicker journeys between frequent stops. Diesels are old fashioned, polluting and highly unlikely to match electric performance in this situation.

“So-called bimode trains - electrics that also have diesel engines - are the worst of both worlds, more expensive to buy, operate and maintain, wasteful of energy and with performance even more limited by the extra mass they have to carry.

“A smart approach to electrification will reduce costs and disruption in building.

“Recent schemes have run late because of bad planning. A rolling programme with teams moving on from to scheme will learn from recent experience and deliver efficiently.

“You’ll be hearing a lot more about the Electric Railway Charter in the coming months. We are not dogmatic about wiring every single kilometre. Gaps, for example through long tunnels, can by bridged using trains with a modest amount of on-board energy storage with the latest battery technology. But surely not dirty diesels.”

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said: “The trans-Pennine route feeds two of the biggest cities in the North yet I fear that the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling simply doesn’t understand how important it is.

“The reported backtracking on this upgrade shows once again how Northern transport links are always at the back of the queue when it comes to investment.

“While we see progress on big London projects such as Crossrail, and now the equally expensive Crossrail 2, our local railways are in desperate need of modernisation.

“During the last election campaign Chris Grayling came to Sowerby Bridge and promised electrification and upgrades to the Calder Valley Line. It’s now clear that, true to form, these were also just warm words. It’s a disgrace.”