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Government accused of 'betraying' commuters over rail electrification U-turn

Government accused of 'betraying' commuters over rail electrification U-turn
3 min read

Ministers have been accused of "betraying" commuters after scrapping plans for the electrification of rail lines across the country.


The latest climbdown in the face of huge budget overruns was announced by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling on the last day of parliament before the summer recess.

Lines that were due for upgrade to make them faster and more environmentally friendly - including work on the Midlands mainline which was stalled in 2015 - will now be left as they are.

The Liberal Democrats said commuters were missing out because of the Government’s “obsession with an extreme and damaging Brexit” while Labour said ministers had been taking people “for a ride”.

Top Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said the about-turn on plans to electrify part of the Midland Mainline in her constituency was “disappointing”.

Electrification works around the country were begun by Network Rail in 2014 in a bid to make train travel faster, more reliable and cleaner.

But today Mr Grayling said rather than blight passengers with “disruptive electrification works” and “intrusive wires and masts” they would instead benefit from new energy-switching trains.

The bi-mode trains are able to switch to diesel on non-electrified track - but the Government has not yet announced how much their fitting them with diesel engines will cost.

Electrification of the Midland mainline, the Great Western Mainline between Cardiff and Swansea will no longer happen, Mr Grayling explained.

In 2015 work on the Midland mainline was paused due to rising costs and missed deadlines, but work on the Great Western line remained a “top priority”.

Later in the same year it emerged the cost of electrifying the Great Western mainline had tripled to as much as £2.8bn.

'BETRAYAL OF PASSENGERS'

Today Lib Dem Shadow Transport Secretary Jenny Randerson blasted: "This decision is a betrayal of passengers across the country who would have benefited from these upgraded routes.”

She added: "Much-needed infrastructure investment is being neglected because of this government's obsession with an extreme and damaging Brexit."

Labour Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald meanwhile said today’s announcement showed the Government had “been taking people for a ride”.

“The cancellation of works means passengers will be denied the faster, greener, more reliable train journeys they were promised, and South Wales will miss out on the economic activity that improved rail services deliver,” he said.

“The decision betrays a promise to South Wales and the Transport Secretary sneaking out the news on the final day before he goes on his summer holidays adds insult to injury.”

Former education secretary Ms Morgan meanwhile hit out at her own party by tweeting:

And Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said the Tory commitment to parts of the country that will now be left without upgrades was “skin deep”.

“To cancel the electrification of the line from Cardiff to Swansea is an act of economic vandalism,” he blasted.

“Our railways and the people of Wales both deserve far better than this. Only a Labour government will ensure there is the investment needed to ensure no one or any part of Britain is left behind because of an inadequate public transport system."

The day before a parliamentary break last November the government said plans to upgrade routes in Oxford, Bristol, Bath and the Thames Valley were being "deferred" following a review.

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