Sunday, 8 March 2015

Reportage: Electrification is top priority says rail minister

The electrification of the Calder Valley has been recommended as a priority by a cross-party taskforce to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

The group has said that 12 lines across the north of England including six lines in Yorkshire should be pushed to the top of the list for the next round of electrification upgrades which will take place from 2019 to 2024.

Campaigners from Halifax and District Rail Action Group who have been fighting for electrification of the trans-Pennine route for months said they were delighted.

And it’s victory for the Courier’s campaign, backed by businesses across the district, as electrifying the line will mean faster, cleaner, greener, more energy efficient trains, punctual services and massive benefits for Calderdale passengers.

Stephen Waring, chair of HADRAG, said: “Nearly 15 months ago everyone locally and across the region was astonished when the DfT omitted the Calder Valley line from the task force’s list.

“In our Christmas 2013 letter to Patrick McLoughlin we put common sense arguments for Calder Valley line electrification and the government and its Transport Department were forced to concede our line must be considered,” he said.

“A lot of work has been put into this for well over a year by Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority as well as the wider Rail North consortium.

“We are also extremely grateful to Mid-Yorkshire Commerce for keeping up the campaign.
“Now, thanks also to the professional work done by the northern electrification taskforce, there is a strong business case for electrification of our line backing HADRAG’s common-sense arguments.”
Mr McLoughlin said: “I want to see a rolling plan for further electrification and this study will have a vital part to play in setting the agenda for 2019 and beyond.

“Network Rail will take the taskforce’s findings into account as it develops its nationwide plan to improve the nation’s railways.”

The news has also been welcomed by politicians from across the political divide.

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax , said: “This would be a welcome boost, but there also needs to be faster trains, more carriages and more services.

“This Government has failed on all three. I have long campaigned for electrification and a future Labour Government would give the green light for more investment and better trains.”

Philip Allott, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Halifax, said: “It’s great news - it shows that when we pull together in Calderdale we get what we want.
“There’s been a lot of effort not just by me, but by a lot of people on the council across the political spectrum.
“It bodes well for the vision I have for Halifax which is having high speed trains, upgraded trains and signals and third platform at the station.”

Paul Rogan, UKIP Parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, said: “This is good news for the environment and for travellers. Electric trains cause less pollution, are lighter, cheaper to run and are more modern rolling stock - it’s a win-win.”

Alisdair Calder McGregor, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, said: “As I advised Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, Baroness Susan Kramer when we met at Liberal Democrat Conference, electrification of Calderdale is essential for the good running of trains between Manchester and Leeds, as if only one of the two pennine crossing routes is electrified, operational resilience is halved.”

The report by the rail taskforce was presented to Mr McLoughlin at Sheffield Station yesterday.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who chaired the group, said: “The need for rail electrification is significant. It is part of the improvements in infrastructure that we need in the north. We know how much there is to do and to do it we are looking at a task of generational scale. Indeed, this report is intended to look years ahead.”

It recommends that the case for electrifying 12 lines, including the six through Yorkshire, is developed further ready for the next investment plan by Network Rail which will cover the five years from 2019. The five other lines recommended for electrification are the Harrogate line, the Selby to Hull line, Dearne Valley line, the route connection Sheffield to Leeds via Barnsley and the stretch from Northallerton to Middlesbrough.

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