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Rail electrification

Published Thursday, July 27, 2017

This briefing paper explains the rail electrification schemes planned by the Labour, Coalition and Conservative governments and where things currently stand with each one.

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Less than half of the British rail network is electrified. Since 1997 roughly 60 miles of existing track have been electrified – 50 of them since 2010.

Towards the end of its time in office in 2009, Labour announced a large scale electrification programme for the railways, including the Great Western Main Line and various schemes in the North West. The Coalition took up these proposals after 2010 (with some modification) and expanded them to include the Midland Main Line and other schemes.

Network Rail is responsible for delivering these schemes, which are funded as part of its multi-year quinquennial settlement. Most of these schemes were due to progress in Control Period 5 (CP5) between 2014 and 2019.

However, in June 2015 the Secretary of State for Transport announced that the Midland Main Line and TransPennine electrification schemes would be ‘paused’. He insisted that NR’s focus should be on delivering the Great Western upgrade to time and on budget.

In September 2015 the Secretary of State announced that the schemes would be ‘unpaused’, but with delays to their completion dates.

In November 2016 the Railways Minister deferred four electrification projects which form part of the Great Western upgrade programme. He gave no date for their resumption, arguing that passenger benefits could be provided by newer trains with more capacity, without requiring “costly and disruptive” electrification works.

In July 2017 the Secretary of State announced the cancellation of electrification works between Cardiff and Swansea, on the Midland Main Line between Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield, and in the Lake District between Windermere and Oxenholme. He also made comments to the media casting doubt on the future of the TransPennine electrification programme.

Information on other rail-related issues and infrastructure schemes, such as HS2, Crossrail and Thameslink can be found on the Railways Briefings Page of the Parliament website.

Commons Briefing papers SN05907

Author: Louise Butcher

Topic: Railways

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