Rail industry welcomes electrification plan

A major scheme to extend electrification on Britain's railways has been unveiled by infrastructure company Network Rail.

Launching a formal consultation on the proposals, Network Rail recommended that the busiest 3,000 miles of non-electrified routes should be electrified as a priority.

These routes include the Midland Main Line, including services from London's St Pancras station to Sheffield, and the Great Western Main Line covering services from London's Paddington station, as well as strategic infills connecting existing electrified lines to provide more diversionary routes.

At present only 40 per cent of the rail network - 8,000 miles out of a total of 20,000 miles - is electrified. That includes most of the south east of England, and the main lines from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as the Merseyrail network around Liverpool and the Glasgow suburban network.

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "The consensus for expanding our electrified network is growing. The evidence outlined in this strategy sets out a positive case for a long-term commitment to electrification.

"Electric trains are not only better for the environment, but are quieter and smoother for passengers while causing less wear and tear to the track. They are more reliable and often faster. Further electrification will also help open up more diversionary routes so that we can keep people on trains and off buses as we carry out planned rail improvement work.

"Our plans to develop an engineering method that can install power lines quickly, and efficiently, without disrupting services and at a cost that is affordable are already at an advanced stage."

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "Now that Network Rail has published its strategy, the Government should honour the commitment it made in January to make a decision, by giving the green light to electrifying the Great Western and Midland Main lines.

“As these are long term projects, we must start planning now so that electrification can unlock the major modernisation of important long distance routes.

“It is also important to press ahead in the shorter term with smaller infill schemes which can plug some of the gaps in the electrified network. This will prepare the way for more substantial investment in main line electrification after 2014 by allowing electric fleets to be used more effectively.”

Paul Martin, director-general of the Railway Forum, added: “The consultation exercise into the electrification Route Utilisation Strategy demonstrates the mature way the industry works together for the benefit of its customers. This strategy is the result of close collaboration between Network Rail, ATOC, the Railway Industry Association, the freight operating companies, and the public sector.

"Key to successful infill electrification in Control Period 4, before 2014, and main line electrification in Control Period 5 (2014-2019), will be to ensure that there are sufficient skills and resources available to deliver. The railway industry is working hard to meet this challenge.”

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