Anyone who’s had to travel from Sheffield to Manchester by rail won’t have failed to notice the slow service and shameful overcrowding. It isn’t as though there isn’t demand for a fast and comfortable service between two of Britain’s biggest cities, so I’ve been staggered to hear of the Government’s U-turn on electrifying the Transpennine and Midland Main Lines.
Electrification would have cut journey times to Manchester from 51 to 30 minutes, to Leeds from 40 to 30 minutes and also cut a quarter of an hour off travel to London. It’s not just about comfort and convenience, but the boost to our economy that electrification would bring – 850,000 jobs for the North over the next 30 years.
This effective abandonment of Crossrail for the North shows how empty the Government’s transport plans are. The diesel bi-mode trains they’re trying to push won’t deliver anything like the improvements in speed, pollution and long-term costs that real electrification would bring.
Labour would deliver the electrification that was promised, because we recognise that the growth of the Sheffield economy can’t continue while our city is starved of proper transport infrastructure. Electrification would benefit not just Sheffield and the other cities served by Crossrail for the North, but that increased prosperity would spread to the rest of the county as well.