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Chamber calls for rethink over rail electrification

Posted on August 5th, 2017

Scott Knowles
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is being urged to reconsider his decision not to electrify the Midland Main Line railway.

The Chamber is demanding a meeting with Mr Grayling to persuade him that he is wrong not to proceed with the £1bn project.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, copied to local MPs including the newly appointed Chair of the Transport Select Committee Lilian Greenwood, Labour member for Nottingham South, the Chamber said: “We are not convinced that the switch to bi-mode trains will result in the same level of improvements that electrification would bring.”

It adds: “We believe that a golden opportunity to enhance growth – for a modest investment against comparable projects – is being missed.”

Many local authorities across the East Midlands are believed to be petitioning Mr Grayling over what is being seen as a snub to the region, especially as just days after announcing that electrification of Midland main Line would stop at Kettering to save £1bn the Government announced £30bn for a second Crossrail project.

In its letter, the Chamber, which has previously accused Mr Grayling of a London-centric focus for railways, said: “The East Midlands represents the spine of UK manufacturing and engineering and we pride ourselves on being world-leaders in making and moving products.

“Over recent months the region has grown at a rate that outstrips other parts of the UK. Our own economic work, shows us that our manufacturing members in particular have been on the front foot in investing in the development of new opportunities both at home and abroad.

“It is these businesses that will lead the delivery of a successful UK economy outside of the EU, however, they need to be supported by the best possible infrastructure to move the goods and people that their growth demands.

“For this reason, the Chamber – the biggest business-representation organisation in the Midlands - and its members were extremely disappointed at the announcement that the investment in electrification for the Midland Main Line has been cancelled.”

The Midland Main Line carries over 13 million passengers a year, connecting four of the largest cities – Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield – to each other and to London.

Passenger numbers have increased by 130% over the past 15 years, with a further 30% rise expected over the next ten years. However, the region has suffered from continued under-investment in transport spend when compared to other parts of the UK, and as a result has the slowest inter-city line in the UK.

Scott Knowles, the Chamber’s Chief Executive, said: “At a time of external uncertainties, the right investment gives confidence to businesses planning for the longer-term. Electrification of the Midland Main Line railway provides that opportunity. We need a meeting with Mr Grayling to better understand the reasons behind the decision and the options to progress the agenda from here.”