The case for Midland Main Line electrification
At the time of writing, Network Rail’s website states that, by 2020, the Midland Main Line will be electrified [from Bedford to Sheffield and Corby] and [its] rail bottlenecks removed, improving capacity.
According to Network Rail, the benefits of electrification are:
More capacity for passenger and freight traffic to keep pace with the growing demand for rail.
Improved reliability and performance as we modernise the route using state-of-the-art technology.
Longer, faster and quieter trains and quicker journeys.
Environmentally friendly – greener trains mean the carbon footprint is reduced by up to 11,000 tonnes, equivalent to annual greenhouse gas emissions from 1,828 passenger vehicles.
Stimulating and supporting economic growth as we connect the region’s biggest economies.
However, as with the Great Western, there is very little quantitative information available about Midland electrification, and it does not seem to have been thought through properly. The scheme does not include the Dudding Hill route, the Erewash Valley line, or north of Sheffield, so the freight benefits look minimal.
Currently, there is very little passenger traffic north of Bedford. And in the future, the government’s ‘intention’ is that most or all long distance passengers between London, the East Midlands, and South Yorkshire would be carried by the HS2 Y network. For face-saving reasons, as with HS1, a future government would probably bankroll operation of HS2, with guaranteed long-term subsidies for the operator.
Electrification of the Midland would only make sense, if much more intensive use could be made of the line. Unfortunately, there is no sign of any strategy to allow that to happen. Apart from HS2, one of the biggest obstacles to efficient use of the Midland, is the botched redevelopment of London’s St Pancras terminus. Just four platforms are now available for MML intercity trains there, and there is no obvious way of adding more.