UK Politics

Midlands line 'to be electrified'

St Pancras Station
Image caption The Midland Main Line's southern terminus is at London's revamped St Pancras station

A £500m scheme to electrify the Midland Main Line rail route is expected to be announced by the government.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening is due on Monday to outline plans to complete the electrification of the route between Sheffield and London.

At present the line is electrified only between St Pancras station and Bedford.

The new decision over the Midland Main Line, if confirmed, would mean extending overhead wires to Sheffield via the east Midlands.

However, it is not yet known if track improvements will also be announced, especially at Derby and Leicester stations.

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Media captionTransport commentator Christian Wolmar: There will be jobs for British workers

Meanwhile, the Department of Transport has refused to confirm or deny reports that the Midland Main Line announcement forms part of a far wider rail network investment programme to be announced next week.

The Guardian reports that further plans include electrification of the Great Western Line from London to Swansea via Cardiff; a "northern hub" of new projects around Manchester; and an upgrade of parts of the East Coast Main Line from London to the north of England.

The Midland Main Line decision comes after business groups and politicians in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands campaigned for the line to be upgraded.

BBC Radio Derby political reporter Chris Doidge said the Varsity line linking Oxford and Cambridge could also be reopened; most of it was closed to passengers following the Beeching Report in the 1960s.

The Derby-based train-maker Bombardier, which was threatened with closure after missing out on a contract last year, is likely to be a beneficiary of the government's plans, he said.

'Political hot potato'

Ministers say electric trains are lighter and more energy efficient, cutting the running cost and environmental impact of train services, and have faster acceleration.

Rail expert Christian Wolmar said the expected announcement was "terribly good news".

"This implies that there might be trains that are transformed from diesel trains into electric trains," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"That work will be done either at Derby or Preston so there will be jobs for British workers."

He said it was not clear if the scheme would be paid for "by heavily above-inflation fares rises" or "more money from the taxpayer".

"Fares have become a big political issue - they're supposing to be going up by 3% above the rate of inflation, which will be something like 6 or 7% in all, in January," he added.

"But I somewhat suspect this is a political hot potato so they might try and say: 'This investment is all happening, it's great news but I'm afraid that fare payers have to pay for it.'

"But there will be a lot of political flak over that."

A spokesman for the Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum said: "If the Midland Main Line is upgraded, the supply chain waits ready to meet the needs of the industry.

"We hope it is not just electrification - there are great benefits to be found in upgrading the current infrastructure."

In June, Conservative MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone told MPs that while £12bn had been spent in recent years on Britain's rail network, just £200m had gone to the Midland Main Line.

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