Harrogate’s hope of a electrified rail network have been thrown into doubt after multi-billion plans to overhaul the North’s railways were put ‘on hold.’
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has told MPs that a £38 billion five year plan to overhaul Britain’s railways is being ‘reset’ because it is ‘costing more and taking longer.’
Electrification work will be ‘paused’ on the Midland mainline and on the Transpennine route between Leeds and Manchester, the Transport Secretary said in a Commons statement on Thursday (June 25).
The announcement has thrown hopes that the Leeds-Harrogate-York line could be electrified into doubt.
Earlier this year it was announced that the York-Harrogate-Leeds rail line was a ‘top priority’ for electrification.
A cross-part taskforce, led by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones recommends the line as one of 12 which should be part of the next investment plan by Network Rail which was planned to cover the five
Mr Jones, who has been a junior minister in the Deparment for Transport since May insisted the work was merely on hold. He said: “It is important to be clear what has happened here. Schemes have not been axed; funds have not been withdrawn. This is a pause to ensure that we can deliver electrification and the improvements needed to our railways. It is a pause to strengthen the team at Network Rail.
He added: “The organisation charged with the delivery of the £38bn upgrade, Network Rail, has simply not performed well enough and is some way from being able to complete the work asked of it. Clearly, that is not something that can be left unaddressed. That is why there have been significant changes at the top of Network Rail.”
Mr McLoughlin also blamed Network Rail for the problems and told MPs none of the executive directors would get a bonus for the past year.
Mr Jones added: “This is certainly not the end of the line for local electrification. The business case has been made, it is a powerful case and it has been accepted. When looking at potential schemes for electrification the Leeds – Harrogate – York line was in the top tier of schemes for electrification.
“None of this has – or will – change. The Government has taken action to address the problems with Network Rail’s growing costs and slipping timetables. Although the situation will mean some delays to schemes, this early intervention will allow greater progress than if the situation had been left as has happened so often with large public sector investment schemes in the past.”