England Transport secretary confirms £9bn rail investment

THE TRANSPORT SECRETARY Justine Greening has confirmed a programme of rail investment worth £9 billion, including £4.2 billion of new spending. Electrification of the Midland Main Line north of Bedford is understood to be top of the agenda, at a cost of £500 million.

A detailed announcement is to be made by David Cameron and Nick Clegg at a business meeting in the Midlands later this morning.

The southern section of the MML between London and Bedford has been electrified for 30 years, and it is now thought that the wires are set to be extended to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield. The Kettering-Corby line is also a likely candidate.

Less certain, but still on the table, is the Erewash Valley route running east of Derby, and also the links north of Sheffield to Leeds and Doncaster, where connections would be made with the existing electrified network.

Electrification is also expected to be extended in South Wales, from Cardiff to Swansea, while the local Valley Lines which mainly radiate from Cardiff are a strong contender as well.

The DfT is also expected to confirm the plan to reopen the rest of the former ‘Varsity’ route west of Bedford, allowing trains to run from Oxford to Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. When Milton Keynes Central was remodelled recently, a new bay platform was built to cater for future Oxford services.

Electrification could be set to go still further in the longer term, with Derby-Birmingham, Bristol-Bromsgrove and Bristol-Exeter-Plymouth also said to be under consideration – although not expected to be announced today. Completion of these schemes would mean that the majority of the CrossCountry network would be electrified and give fresh impetus to the eVoyager programme, which would add a pantograph car to most of the CrossCountry sets, converting them into bi-modal units.

If eVoyager is approved and the Midland Main Line is electrified, the similar Meridians on the MML would also be strong candidates for a bi-modal or even complete conversion to electric traction, allowing their underfloor diesel engines to be removed and so reducing their weight.

But the Government still has several major rail decisions to make, particularly about new rolling stock. Both the Intercity Express and Thameslink procurement programmes are running well behind schedule, and repeated official assurances that financial close is imminent have so far come to nothing.

Source : Railnews.co

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