Grayling moots longer Trans-Pennine blockade

TRANSPORT SECRETARY Chris Grayling has suggested ‘much more extended possessions’ could be used to deliver the upgrade of the Trans-Pennine route in Control Period 6 (2019-24).

Speaking to the House of Commons Transport Committee, Mr Grayling confirmed £2.9 billion is available for the upgrading of the route from Manchester to Leeds and York. The suggestion of an extended blockade followed discussion about the difficulties electrifying the Severn Tunnel as part of the Great Western project.

Discussing the Trans-Pennine upgrade, Mr Grayling told the Committee: ‘It is going to be a rolling programme. This is not something where there is a single thing that delivers all the benefits. Our goal is to improve journey times and improve the passenger experience. We want to reduce journey times as far as possible. We have literally just had the solution from Network Rail with different options.’

He continued: ‘There may be some things we do that are quite bold. There is a case, subject to consultation, for much more extended possessions. One of the problems is that the work is done for three hours in the middle of the night or for a weekend. If we could set up a plan to close the route for a month one summer and divert the trains elsewhere, we could do a whole lot of extra work. We are working through the detail at the moment.’

Mr Grayling has previously suggested partial electrification and the use of bi-mode trains is his preferred solution for the route, avoiding electrification through more difficult sections such as Standedge Tunnel, a view he reiterated to the committee. ‘I do not expect in the initial stages to electrify the whole route’ he said. ‘It may be, in the end, that decisions are taken to electrify the whole route, but I suspect I will not be around by the time we get to that, because it is a project that goes way into the 2020s. My view is that we should spend the money on a rolling programme in a way that delivers the most passenger benefits as early as possible.’