THERE IS no confirmed completion date for the Power Supply Upgrade 2 project on the East Coast main line, potentially forcing services between Newcastle and Edinburgh to run on diesel rather than electric power until 2024.

Phase One of the work, covering Wood Green to Bawtry, is nearly complete, but Phase Two (PSU2) north of Bawtry is still in the design phase. It includes a new feeder station at Hambleton in Yorkshire, expected to be operational in 2021/22, and additional feeders further north to Edinburgh, including at Marshall Meadows on the Scottish borders. It is expected to be completed during Control Period 6 (2019-24), but it is understood the Department for Transport has been slow to authorise the work.

‘There is currently no completion date for PSU2, understand that this will be decided later this year once GRIP4 (single option development) work is concluded’ LNER Managing Director David Horne told Modern Railways. Industry sources have pointed out that physical works have not yet started, and the substations have not yet been ordered. But Mr Horne said the success of the new feeder station at Potteric Carr near Doncaster, where a static frequency converter converts 33kV off the National Grid into 25kV for traction (p33, June 2019 issue), points the way ahead for future installations.

TransPennine Express’s Class 802 Nova 1 bi-modes, which operate the Liverpool to Edinburgh services the company introduced at the December timetable change as extensions of Liverpool to Newcastle services, are already having to operate on diesel power. TPE told Modern Railways it is running its trains on diesel power between Chathill and Longniddry in agreement with Network Rail. Operators on the route worry about the performance implications of this.

With LNER having now withdrawn its HSTs, the expectation was that both its remaining Class 91/Mk 4 sets and all Hitachi Azumas would operate on electric power. The Azumas’ slower acceleration in diesel mode is likely to cause timetabling issues, with the mix of bi-mode Class 800s and electric-only Class 801s potentially requiring different timings. Mr Horne confirmed there are particular problems on Sundays, on which LNER operates three trains per hour south from Edinburgh at certain times of the day, one of which will need to run in diesel mode until the power supply is upgraded.

A further potential complication is the introduction of FirstGroup’s new open access service between London and Edinburgh. The five trains per day are due to begin operating in 2021, and FirstGroup has ordered electric-only trains from Hitachi for the new service.