Railway electrification

Gordon Brown and transport secretary Andrew Adonis have disclosed that work will start immediately to electrify major parts of the UK rail network.

Prime minister Gordon Brown and transport secretary Andrew Adonis have disclosed that work is to start immediately to electrify major parts of the UK rail network.

A £1.1bn government investment will lead to the electrification of the London to Swansea and Liverpool to Manchester lines. The news will mean that electric main line trains will run in Wales for the first time.

Currently, only 33 per cent of the rail network is electrified, including most of the south east of England, and the main lines from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as the Merseyrail network around Liverpool and the Glasgow suburban network.

The Liverpool-Manchester electrification will be completed within four years and the London-Swansea electrification within eight years, although stages in between will be completed earlier.

Electrification, combined with other improvements to track and signalling on the line, will mean that minimum journey times between Liverpool and Manchester will be reduced from 44 to 30 minutes and between London and Swansea by 19 minutes.

The Great Western electrification will include the lines to Oxford and Newbury and allow the ageing Intercity 125 fleet to be replaced by electric Super Express intercity trains, and by hybrid diesel/ electric Super Express trains.

The government also plans to consider further electrification of the network in the coming months, particularly the Midland Main Line (between London, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield) and routes between Manchester and Preston and Liverpool and Preston.

The government also announced that a new rolling stock deployment plan, taking into account the new electrification, will be published in the autumn.

Network Rail will carry out the electrification work. Chief executive Iain Coucher said: ’Today is a good start, but there is much further to go. Network Rail has been pushing for electrification for a long time. Indeed in 2007 – along with the Association of Train Operating Companies – we urged the Department for Transport to take the issue seriously.’

Today’s announcement has prompted the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) to query the government on where funding for rail electrification will come from.

Nelson Ogunshakin, ACE chief executive, said: ‘We welcome today’s announcement as a signal of intent to modernise the UK’s railways. However, the government must make it clear how these important works are to be paid for.

‘Network Rail has already set out a detailed and costed plan of works for the next five years, which they believe is already underfunded. While we would obviously welcome further announcements of major investment, we would be wary of raiding other projects in order to pay for it.

‘The government claims that the upgrades will be self-funding, but significant savings will have to be achieved to repay the necessary borrowing. We know that affordable project financing is still difficult to obtain.’