Train operators call for infill electrification

Electrifying up to 400 miles of 'missing link' railway lines would provide a massive boost in passenger numbers as well as benefiting the climate, Britain's train firms have said.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) wants to transform a series of routes across the country that are currently restricted to diesel trains in a £500 million project.

It would take a decade and cause disruption, but would eventually allow 85,000 more passengers a day or 35 per cent extra to travel, ATOC said, as well as providing extra capacity for freight traffic. Carbon emissions would also be slashed by 75,000 tonnes, or 30 per cent.

There are around 10,000 route miles in Great Britain. The 400 route miles identified in the infill scheme make up just 4 per cent of the total rail network.

Most lines in London and the South East and routes running from North to South, such as the East and West Coast Main Lines, are already electrified. But no lines running across the width of the country are currently powered that way.

ATOC wants to upgrade the lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Leeds and York. It also wants to transform the routes between Birmingham and Bristol, Reading, Swindon and Gloucester, and from Ipswich to Felixstowe.

Some five million people would benefit from the more efficient service, the group said.

The proposal envisages that planning could begin now for a rolling programme of electrification to be implemented in the course of a decade, starting in 2014. Workers and equipment would move on from one project to the next.

Chief executive Michael Roberts said: "Over the next 30 years, the demand for rail is likely to double and we must continue to improve our existing network if we are to keep up with this growth in passenger numbers, as well as planning for new capacity such as high speed lines."

He added: "A relatively small investment would help cut carbon emissions and deal with the capacity problems facing parts of the rail network. Linking up cities and towns with better trains that can carry more passengers also benefits the whole of the economy, encouraging investment and helping businesses to be more efficient."

Train companies prefer electric-powered trains as they can take more people and run a more frequent service as no refuelling is involved.

The ten schemes identified by ATOC are:
-     Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central
-     Manchester to Leeds via Huddersfield
-     Basingstoke / Reading to Birmingham via Oxford and Leamington / Coventry
-     Birmingham to Bristol via Cheltenham (including Gloucester)
-     St Helens to Wigan
-     Leeds to York
-     Preston to Manchester via Bolton
-     Crewe to Chester
-     Ipswich to Felixstowe
-     Swindon to Cheltenham

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