Electrification and modernisation plans re-commenced

On, off, on…

Just weeks after the General Election, the rail sector was dealt a devastating blow when the government ‘paused’ promised upgrades to major rail lines in the Midlands and the North of England. There were serious concerns over the future of inward investment and business confidence following the pause.

Peter Kennan, a Partner at Hawsons, who also Chairs Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Transport Forum, appeared on BBC and ITV news programmes back in June to express the disappointment felt by Sheffield City Region businesses following the announcement.

Major delays as new completion dates announced

However, the good news is that Network Rail is set to restart electrification of train lines and move forward with their plans. Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Mcloughlin, has reversed his June suspension and has now pressed for urgency on these two important electrification schemes. This could mean wires across the Pennines by 2020, and wires reaching Sheffield from London by 2023. This is somewhat behind the original proposed completion dates of 2019, but is good news nevertheless. There is also good news for the Midlands as electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby will now be completed by 2019.

Speaking to the Sheffield Star about the announcement of the recommencement Peter Kennan said “We are delighted to welcome the news that the electrification of the Midland Mainline will resume and we will hopefully have electric trains from Sheffield to London by 2023.”

“A modern, efficient and environmentally friendly rail service to London is a key objective for our city business region. While noting some of the comments made following the announcement, work has to progress in stages from the present limit of electrification in Bedford, and Sheffield is at the extremity of the line. It is actually a big relief that the whole line will be electrified in due course and we feel the delay, although regrettable, is understandable.”

Electrification and the impact on business

Paul Wormald, Transport & Logistics Partner, said: “Whilst this recommencement is welcome news, the lack of detailed costing and implementation plans remains a concern, particularly in the light of delays and cost overruns on current electrification projects. One hopes that the Department for Transport and National Rail follow-up and deliver these projects which are absolutely critical for business growth in the Midlands and North of England.”

“Further plans for electrification and investment in modernisation will bring both opportunities and challenges for businesses involved in the rail industry, and across the Sheffield City Region and Midlands as a whole. For now, the long-term impact of such considerable changes is unknown, but it is essential that firms involved in the rail sector understand, and plan for, the likely business implications.”

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Paul Wormald is a partner at Hawsons, working in the Doncaster office. He worked previously with two national firms of Chartered Accountants prior to joining Hawsons in 2001. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Paul on [email protected] or 01302 367 262.[/author_info]