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Trans-Pennine rail upgrade must include electrification says Combined Authority Transport Chair.

After it emerged the Government has abandoned rail electrification schemes including the Midland mainline route from London to Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Chair Cllr Keith Wakefield has called for assurances that the trans-Pennine route upgrade still includes the electrification of the line.

Cllr Keith Wakefield, who has recently expressed concerns about the future of the trans-Pennine upgrade said: “While we welcome the understanding that upgrading the trans-Pennine route is still on the table, we will be seeking reassurance that the Government’s plans are still based upon the electrification of the line, which will provide the optimum improvements in terms of journey times for people travelling between Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Manchester and beyond.

“We will also be pressing for confirmation that electrification of the Calder Valley line between Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Manchester, and the Leeds Harrogate line, which was recommended as recently as 2014 by former Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin’s Electrification Task Force, remain part of the government’s plans to rebalance the economy.”

In 2014, then Prime Minister David Cameron said that better links across the Pennines would “make the most of the economic strength we have got in Leeds and Manchester and other cities besides” but in 2015 Chris Grayling’s predecessor Patrick McLoughlin put the work on hold along with the Midland Mainline scheme.

Responding to recent speculation in the Sunday Times that the Government was planning to delay TransPennine electrification again Cllr Wakefield said: “If Transport secretary Chris Grayling is preparing to delay the upgrade of this crucial rail link, it really does raise a question mark about the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and narrowing the economic gap between north and south.”

 “Just weeks ago Mr Grayling was in Halifax on the general election campaign trail making assurances about the government’s transport plans for the north but now, post-election it looks like he’s about to kick the trans-Pennine upgrade into the long grass.

“What we need to see now is Ministers reaffirming, in no uncertain terms, their commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and the investment needed to make it a reality.”
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