Viability of Midland Main Line electrification
Network Rail has ’embarked on the biggest programme of works to upgrade the Midland Main Line (MML) since it was completed in 1870′.
[Network Rail, MML improvement programme]
The line will be completely electrified, bridges and tunnels altered or rebuilt as well as work to remodel stations and carry out line speed improvements.
The Midland Main Line runs from London St Pancras to Sheffield, via Luton, Bedford, Corby, Leicester, East Midlands Parkway, Derby, Nottingham and Chesterfield. It serves a diverse set of markets ranging from long distance and commuter travel to leisure passengers visiting Derby, Leicester and Nottingham as well as London.
The MML comprises:
397 miles of track (639 km)
13 million passengers
130% increase over the past 15 years
30% rise in the next 10 years
According to Network Rail, enabling electric trains to operate on the full length of the MML will deliver numerous benefits, meaning:
* More seats
* Less track maintenance
* Faster trains.
How plausible are these statements?
Firstly, there is no reason why electric trains should ‘mean’ more seats. For example, in the new Hitachi ‘Super Express‘ builds for the Great Western and East Coast routes, the diesel engines are located under the floor (and so do not take up what would otherwise be seat space).
Secondly, the claim that ‘less track maintenance will be needed following electrification’ does not seem to have an evidence base. If anything, one would expect infrastructure upkeep costs to rise, rather than fall.
Thirdly, it is unclear why electrification, in and of itself, would mean faster trains. Diesel trains already operate on parts of the route at 200 km/h.