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This level of ambition

with 4 comments

On 13 September, BBC News and its Look North tv show reported on the modernisation of the 69 km Transpennine North railway between Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Stalybridge, and Manchester.

[TransPennine £2.9bn rail upgrade will cause ‘major disruption’, BBC News website, 13 Sep 2018]

Passengers on TransPennine trains will face five years of major disruption during a planned £2.9bn upgrade of the route, a leaked letter has revealed.

The letter from Network Rail to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said there would be line closures for 39 weeks a year from 2020 until 2024.
The letter from Rob McIntosh at Network Rail, says the route is “a Victorian construction that passes through the heart of the Pennines with its inherently challenging topography”.

The minister is warned that access to the many tunnels and bridges along the routes “will be limited and difficult”.

Mr McIntosh says: “This level of ambition cannot be delivered without significant disruption during the course of the works.”

Leaked letter about the scheme (via @joepike, twitter)

Leaked letter about the scheme (via @joepike, twitter)

But the ‘level of ambition’ for the TPN upgrade, is yet to be disclosed. Although the line ‘will be electrified’, according to reporter Spencer Stokes, that might just mean from Leeds to Huddersfield (27 km). In that case, all trains would have to be bi-mode or diesel, to move between Stalybridge and Huddersfield (29 km).

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018

Surely, there would be little to no point in such ‘Cispennine electrification’.

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018

Chris Grayling: 'We will be creating a mainly 4 track railway', Bradford Telegraph and Argus, 12 Sep 2018

[Telegraph & Argus, 12 Sep 2018]

The programme of work for the Transpennine route includes:

renewal of equipment that is contributing to poor performance;

introducing electrification between Leeds and Huddersfield and Stalybridge to Manchester Victoria;

reinstating four tracks between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe, near Dewsbury;

introducing digital signalling between Cottingley (in south-west Leeds) and Stalybridge;

line speed improvements between Manchester and Stalybridge, Morley and Ulleskelf to York;

increasing capacity at Leeds and Calder Valley stations and enhancing Huddersfield and Stalybridge stations.

Whatever the level of ambition, upgrading the TPN route would be far less disruptive than building a new line from scratch across the Pennines (‘Northern powerhouse rail’). For NPR, everything would have to be brought to and from site by road, meaning tens of thousands of HGV movements.

So why not scrap the ‘plan’ for NPR, and use some of that money for a proper upgrade of the Calder Valley and Transpennine North lines, including full electrification?

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018, reporter Spencer Stokes at Huddersfield station

If a 35 minute journey time between Manchester and Leeds is achievable from a capability uplift on the existing line, why would anyone, apart from deluded wonks and nutjobs, support NPR?

Written by beleben

September 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Leeds, Manchester, Railways

4 Responses

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  1. The logic of “cis-Pennine” electrification is to bring Huddersfield into Leeds’ orbit as part of an electrified commuter network (ditto the four-tracking) whilst leaving the fast Transpennine services as bimode because of the difficulty of wiring the Pennine tunnels which would need to be substantially reconstructed at huge cost. Bimodes also offer the options of reaching Sunderland, Middlesborough, Scarborough, Hull, Chester and North Wales which purely electric trains don’t – at least, not for the forseeable future.


    September 17, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    • The full electrification of all the line between Manchester and York must be the aim. Anything less is unacceptable. The news about the use of bi-mode traction vehicles is not positive as they are proving more difficult and expensive than anticipated to operate. The cost of updating nearly 200 year old infrastructure is going to be whatever is needed. That should not be a limiting factor when the benefits are immense. The extensions from Leeds to Hull and from Warrington to Holyhead (plus Crewe to Chester) are surely what would make northern electrification truely justifiable.


      September 18, 2018 at 5:04 pm

  2. We shouldn’t forget the proposed Northern Hub and Northwest Electrification Programme which was approved earlier in this decade. The intention was to electrify the Huddersfield Line all the way from Manchester to Leeds. The programme was to permit shorter journey times and more trains per hour. It was scheduled for completion by 2018 ……………

    Instead we have had years of debate and now the likelihood of a much poorer solution with bimode trains. I believe in full electrification, not compromise.


    September 20, 2018 at 7:08 am

  3. […] September 18, the Beleben blog pointed out that de-scoping Transpennine North electrification down to a ‘Cispennine’ scheme […]

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