Network Rail announced this week that the railway between Huddersfield and south Dewsbury would see electrification as part of a package of measures to speed up journey times, increase capacity and improve reliability between east and west.
Other improvements set to be consulted on include doubling the number of tracks from two to four, major upgrades to stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe and a proposed ‘grade separation’ – either a bridge or a tunnel – at Ravensthorpe that will separate two sections of track from each other.
The details released by Network Rail are the first to emerge about the project, which former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said last year would begin by spring 2019.
No physical work has yet begun but the agency responsible for rail infrastructure has been doing planning and preparation work such as vegetation removal along the route and work to a railway junction in Micklefield.
The West and North Yorkshire Campaign for Better Transport, while welcoming the measures, said in a statement: "This route has to be considered, however, not in isolation, or partially, but rather as a vital strategic through route from Manchester to York."
It added: "Where, for example, are the proposals for electrification between Stalybridge and Huddersfield, or between south of Dewsbury and Leeds, or between Leeds and Colton Junction on the East Coast Mainline to York?
"Electrification is particularly important for freight movement over the Pennines and is readily obscured by a fixation solely on passengers.
"Electrification east of Ravensthorpe towards the East Coast Main Line north of Doncaster might be attractive to freight traffics. The benefits of electrification cannot be reaped without coherent through route provision of wires."
The group added: "We also question why the section between south Dewsbury and Leeds has been omitted in this announcement.
"There is little point in speeding trains up between Huddersfield and south Dewsbury if they are then held up by a slow dual track ‘throat’ between Dewsbury and Leeds. It is unclear how the train passing provision in alternate directions shared currently between Dewsbury and Mirfield stations will be removed as an operational constraint."
Further details about the other sections of the route are due to emerge later, but Network Rail was unable to say when this would be. Kieran Dunkin, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail, said: “The first outline proposals look at one section of this upgrade, which is between Huddersfield and Westtown (Dewsbury).
"For this part of the upgrade, Network Rail is carrying out a public consultation. This begins in September and is an opportunity for those residents and businesses in the area to provide their feedback.
“Network Rail welcomes views on this section of the scheme and encourages those affected to take part. The consultation will allow Network Rail to gather feedback as part of a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) submission that Network Rail will make in 2020.”