From TP upgrade to rolling programme: The Charter writes to Mr Grayling

We still do not know quite what the scope of the Trans Pennine route upgrade (TRU) on the line through Huddersfield is to be. The Government has yet to announce its final decision on options. But work is supposed to start in a few months time, so hopefully we are going to be told soon. The North of England needs a full job doing with electrification right through from York to Manchester, linking the East Coast Main Line with the already wired Manchester and Liverpool railway. The upgrade should also include extra tracks – reinstating 4-track sections that were removed decades ago – to increase capacity. We hope this will include 4-tracking between Huddersfield and Mirfield/Ravensthorpe. Those extra tracks will be vital if the Calder Valley service via Brighouse towards both Leeds and Huddersfield is to be improved. The physical capacity to be gained by additional tracks can not be replicated in “virtual” form by digital signalling.

What’s missing from this scene? Northern diesel train. City skyline as backdrop. What’s the cantilever structure that doesn’t seem to be doing anything? Evidence of unfinished electrification scheme. This is a bright winter’s day at Manchester Victoria, pleasantly cold and fresh outside but in more enclosed parts of this station the atmosphere is foul with diesel emissions. 


Recent media reports suggest Government may be about to limit the scope of TRU. It is said that maybe only about two thirds of the route from York/Leeds through Huddersfield may be electrified. The section from Huddersfield to Stalybridge could be left unwired. But that section, crossing the Pennines with gradients requiring high performance to maintain good timings, could be the very section that would benefit most from modern electric traction. Bi-mode electro-diesel trains carrying extra weight of engines are unlikely ever to match the acceleration and hill-climbing of pure electrics, and they will continue to emit pollutants that damage local air quality and add to global warming. We write as the COP24 climate change conference deliberates in  Poland.

The Electric Railway Charter calls for implementation of the rolling programme of rail electrification that was recommended nearly 4 years ago by the Northern Electrification Task Force. Top-ranked scheme was the Calder Valley Line and the Charter says this line would follow on naturally after the Huddersfield Line TRU.

Charter campaigners have written to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for transport. We politely ask him to approve the TRU with full electrification and capacity benefits, and commit to a rolling programme across the North. Read our letter HERE.

The Charter, as we keep saying, is not dogmatic about electrifying every single metre or even kilometre of route. Gaps through tunnels and other structures that are a challenge to electrify can be bridged by trains using modest amounts of electrical battery storage. This is actually being planned for the South Wales “Valleys” lines. It is more efficient in energy terms – and better economics – than wasteful diesel bi-mode trains that have to use more energy to accelerate more mass. As for alternative fuels such as hydrogen, again this is a less efficient way of storing and transferring energy than pure electric or electric plus batteries.

Meanwhile new technology will make installation of the high voltage overhead line equipment easier. Engineers Mott MacDonald have come up with a new design of support for the wires, using a composite wood-based material that combines required electrical insulation and structural functions (

And on the Great Western Main Line, the difficult Cardiff Intersection Bridge has actually been treated with an insulating coating so it doesn’t have to be rebuilt or the track lowered – an award-winning project. (

We say to Mr Grayling, diesels and diesel-bimode trains are just bad business. -JSW


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