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Northern Powerhouse rail scheme 'unpaused'

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Two rail electrification schemes controversially paused in the summer are to be restarted, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced

McLoughlin said today (30 September) the government would be ‘unpausing’ the electrification of the TransPennine Express route - an integral part of the Northern Powerhouse commitment - and the Midland Mainline just three months after they were put on ice.

According to the Department for Transport, the decision was made after Network Rail chairman Peter Hendy outlined a roadmap of how work would continue.

Network Rail said it will work with the DFT and Rail North to develop a new plan for electrification of the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and York, which is expected to be completed by 2022.

Hendy has also put forward a timeframe for the Midland Mainline work, with the electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering to be completed by 2019 and the line between Kettering and Sheffield being fully electrified by 2023, four years later than expected.

The news comes ahead of the completion of Hendy’s report looking into the delivery of Network Rail’s £38.5bn Control Period 5 enhancement programme.

In a letter to the transport secretary, former Transport for London boss Hendy recommended the commencement of work on the projects, but admitted that ‘a considerable amount of the electrification costs of both schemes will fall outside CP5 and this will form part of the core of CP6 as schemes which will by then be under way’.

Hendy’s report was commissioned in June, immediately after the government announced the halting of work on the electrification projects. It is expected to be released in November.

McLoughlin said: ‘As a one nation government we are making sure every part of Britain benefits from a growing economy.

‘Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse.

‘This government will see the job through and build a better, faster and more reliable railway for passengers in the North and Midlands.’

Hendy added: ‘The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. People can expect more services and faster journeys.

‘We face some difficult challenges and there is more work still to do, but the secretary of state’s decision means we can now move forward with our plans to electrify TransPennine and Midland Main Line.’

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) chief executive Alasdair Reisner told the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, said: ‘This is terrific news for both our industry and the wider economy.

‘CECA hopes the news that these schemes are to be unpaused will enable them to go forward without further delay as an important step towards rebalancing the economy and improving connectivity.’

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