BUSINESS Secretary Sajid Javid today became the latest Minister forced on the defensive over the Government’s decision to shelve rail electrification projects for Yorkshire.
Mr Javid was launching the Government’s new plan to boost productivity but was asked why it did not include a new timetable for the electrification of the transpennine rail route.
Both the transpennine and Midland mainline electrification projects were put on hold last month after the Government was forced to admit Network Rail’s investment plans were in disarray.
Mr Javid told the BBC’s Today programme: “Infrastructure, whether it is rail or road, aviation, digital, is hugely important to boosting productivity and when it comes to rail we will be setting out our plans and of course you need to make sure those plans are done in detail, that they can be delivere, that we’ve got proper funding for them and we have now because we’ve got this growing economy.
He continued: “When it comes to rail there’s a lot that we can do there’s huge demand and we need to look carefully at every proposal.
“What we are making clear today is that this problem has been recognised, it’s been a long running problem, we haven’t built enough rail capacity, road capacity, aviation capacity and now we need to get on with it.”
York councillors will next week debate a Liberal Democrat motion calling on Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to set out a detailed timetable for transpennine electrification.
Coun Ian Cuthbertson said: “We know that electrification brings significant economic and environmental benefits along with improvement in capacity and faster journey times. A study in 2013 showed that electrification of the line between York and Leeds alone could cut journey times by 20 per cent and provide a multi-million pound boost to the local economy. It is particularly important for York in terms of linking up to the East Coast Main Line and eventually HS2.
“The Government’s delay means that the original plan to deliver an electrified route between York and Manchester by 2019 will be missed. We are calling on the Government to ensure that this delay does not turn into the scheme being scrapped. With passenger numbers increasing it is crucial that these improvements happen and York gets the sustainable transport investment it needs.”