Press release 6th November 2014

Clegg's Northern rail plans lack detail

Rail campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the deputy prime minister's announcement today regarding railway electrification in the North of England.

"We fully support the aspiration for an electrified Trans Pennine network; we too want a fully upgraded and electrified network between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield by 2025."  said Bruce Williamson from the campaign group Railfuture.  "We also agree that there's a desperate need for new rolling stock in the North, but this needs to be sorted much sooner. The inadequate Pacers need to be replaced in the next Northern franchise - passengers can't wait another 11 years"

"The announcement is short on anything concrete, and we need to see more detail.  There is no firm commitment to any new schemes. There's also the question of HS3. A 40 minute maximum journey time across the Pennines would be great, but does Clegg think it can be done through simply electrifying existing lines?  We have our doubts "

"Rail needs to become the mode of choice for travelling between Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and beyond. We also need improvements to make travel to and from other towns in the North attractive, and even possible - for example our campaigns for an extension to Skelmersdale and more frequent services on the Mid-Cheshire line."

"Electrification is an important part of getting ourselves a decent 21st-century railway, but there is so much more than needs to be done as well"

Nick Clegg's announcement is as follows:

Why wait for HS3?

Better trains for Northern cities to end the misery of overcrowding and cut Manchester/Leeds/Sheffield journey times to 40 minutes by 2025

  • Under the Northern Futures campaign I launched at the beginning of the summer, I have been seeking views from across the North, across Britain and around the world on how to create an economic hub in the North to rival London and compete on the world stage.
  • The suggestions and ideas we have had will be debated at the Northern Futures Summit in Leeds on Thursday, and I will turn as much as I can into swift action
  • London and South East has had billions of transport investment over recent years from HS1 to Crossrail to the Northern Line extension. The perfectly reasonable requests I have been hearing from the North are basics that are needed if we are to create a true economic hub in the North of England.
  • The North needs improved transport now. The roads and railway lines connecting our great northern cities have seen improvements in recent years, but I want more. Much more.
  • As we negotiate over what gets government funding in the Autumn Statement, one of my key priorities will be to change that. We need to get this started as soon as possible.
  • I want a fully upgraded and electrified network between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield by 2025.
  • We also need to improve commuter services on lines that are not electrified. I want significant improvement – government money to buy new rolling stock to improve commuter routes in the north – also by 2025.
  • This is not just about rail. 64% of journeys in the North are by car. We need to build on the announcements already made to improve road links such as the M62. I want to go further, starting by extending the full stretch of the M62 between Manchester and Leeds to eight lanes using the “smart” motorway model (that is, turning the hard shoulder into a fourth lane in each direction), and having a programme of improvements for the A618/A626 between Manchester and Sheffield. I will push to see these in the upcoming Roads Investment Strategy for completion by 2025.


  • Improved transport links have been a huge part of what people taking part in Northern Futures are telling me the North needs. We can’t carry on the way we are, with overcrowded commuters trains and intercity connections that lag way behind the world’s most successful cities. As London sees improvements like HS1 and Crossrail, why are commuters in the North saddled with ancient trains and crowded roads?
  • A lot of talk recently about high speed rail, but that is far in the future – HS2 is not planned to open until 2030 at the earliest.
  • Ancient rolling stock and lines that have not been upgraded in 30 years are not fit for a 21st century metropolis. Decrepit trains such as the Pacers, which are literally ancient buses on rails, are not a fair way for people in the North to get to and from work. They would not be deemed acceptable on London commuter lines, and they are not acceptable in the North.

What next?

  • Over next five years, there are things we can do, starting next year particularly in terms of cross-Pennine routes. Over 25 million people use these routes every year, and over a third of passengers have to stand during their commute.
  • By 2020 I want to see electrified cross-Pennine links between Liverpool and Manchester on one side and Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull on the other.
  • This will shorten journey times to, at most, 40 minutes between any two of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield and end the misery of overcrowding when people journey to work.