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Electrification programme

The case for railway electrification was given in the Rail Electrification paper published by DfT in 2009. Railfuture welcomed the following inclusion of a large number of electrification projects in the High Level Output Specification for Control Period 5 (2014-19), on the basis that investment was necessary to reduce unit operating costs so that additional capacity can be provided to accommodate rail travel growth without requiring more subsidy.

However on 20 July 2017 the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling cancelled the planned electrification of the Midland Main Line north of Kettering, the Great Western Main Line west of Cardiff, and Oxenholme to Windermere, proposing replacement by bi-modes and other forms of traction. Since this announcement, the following projects have been completed:

  • Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk High to Edinburgh Waverley
  • Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley to Stirling and Alloa
  • Grangemouth
  • Glasgow Central via Shotts to Edinburgh Waverley (electric services expected to start March 2019)
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria via Bolton to Preston, also the Ordsall chord
  • Preston to Blackpool
  • Bromsgrove to Barnt Green
  • Walsall to Rugeley (electric services expected to start May 2019)
  • Gospel Oak to Barking/Barking Riverside
  • Maidenhead to Didcot
  • Reading to Newbury
  • Didcot to Cardiff
  • Bedford to Corby
  • London Underground Northern Line extension from Kennington to Battersea Power Station.
Railfuture consider that a rolling programme of incremental electrification is essential for Network Rail to act as an informed, intelligent client, learning from each project and applying those lessons to the next. This will develop the programme management and design experience necessary to make the right design decisions and deliver on time and within budget. New increments should be added to this programme progressively. Each increment should deliver a new electrified service and so a specific passenger benefit, and be justified on the need for improved services and a business case which compares efficient capital costs of electrification with the increased operating costs of the alternatives and the passenger benefits which electrification can deliver that the alternatives cannot.

Current projects

Network Rail still has the following 3 electrification projects in progress:

  • Wigan North West to Lostock Junction (Bolton) was authorised in 2013 but work had not started when electrification was paused in 2017. £78m funding was finally approved on 1 September 2021.
  • Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge (Network Rail announced on 18 March 2021 that piling work was starting, and was completed on 15 August 2021).
  • York to Church Fenton and Huddersfield to Leeds (£401m funding announced 26 May 2021)
  • Glasgow Central to Barrhead and East Kilbride, go-ahead announced 8 October 2021, work to start April 2022 and due to be complete by December 2023.
New electric railways are also being built: the Crossrail tunnels between Royal Oak and Pudding Mill Lane/Plumstead, HS2 Phase 1 between London Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street and Phase 2a between the West Midlands and Crewe. The Midland Metro is also being extended from Birmingham City Centre to Edgbaston.

Proposed projects

These schemes are seeking approval or confirmation:
  • HS2 Phase 2b - the route for Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds is awaiting publication of the Integrated Rail Plan by the government. Phase 2b will also include electrification of the existing Erewash Valley and Midland Main Line route between Alfreton and Sheffield.
  • Leeds to Manchester - The National Infrastructure Commission High Speed North report called for the full trans-Pennine (Manchester to Leeds) rail route to be electrified and upgraded, but the Transport Secretary has been quoted as saying that full electrification is unlikely. Only electrification can deliver the quicker more reliable journeys, over the Pennine gradients, needed for the economic prosperity of these cities. Network Rail has submitted a Transport and Works Act Order application for electrification between Huddersfield and Leeds and four-tracking between Huddersfield and Dewsbury, which Railfuture supports because this section is the slowest, most difficult and most capacity constrained on the route. Initial funding has been approved (see above) and work is expected to start in 2023.