Rail electrification works under way following criticism of scaled-back plans

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that the next stage of electrification on the Midland Mainline is set to start on Christmas Eve, just weeks after it faced criticism for scaling back its railway plans.

The project is part of the Government’s £96bn Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the Midlands and the North and will see work undertaken to electrify lines between Kettering in Northamptonshire and Market Harborough in Leicestershire.

When the details were published last month, MPs in the north of England expressed anger at the scrapping of the eastern leg of HS2 between the Midlands and Leeds.

The Government insisted its new plan will result in similar improvements to previous plans, and that they will be delivered sooner and with better value for taxpayers’ money.

The DfT said the IRP will cut journey times from Chesterfield to London to 76 minutes, Derby to London to 58 minutes and Nottingham to London to 57 minutes. Passengers will also see services and capacity nearly doubled with more seats per train and more frequent services.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Last month, I promised we would get on with delivering the Integrated Rail Plan by Christmas and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“Today marks the beginning of a transformation of rail journeys for the Midlands and the North, where we will slash journey times and build better connections between towns, cities and everywhere in between.

“Under our plans, people won’t have to wait two decades for better services. This unprecedented investment will deliver better railways sooner.”

Responding to last month’s criticism from MPs, he added: “I think today [they] should confess that the one thing you can say for sure is we’re getting on with it.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh accused the Government of “cynical broken promises”.

She said: “People will not be taken for fools. They promised the electrification of the Midland Mainline a decade ago. They promised HS2 to Leeds. They promised Northern Powerhouse Rail. They simply cannot be trusted to deliver.”

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