Minister promises better rail journeys

Lord O'Neill
Lord O'Neill
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THE Government is committed to delivering a “21st century” railway for Yorkshire despite shelving electrification plans, a Minister has pledged.

Lord O’Neill said he shared the “frustration” of those angered by the decision to put the electrification of the line connecting Leeds to Manchester on hold but promised action was being taken to solve problems at Network Rail.

The Treasury Minister was responding to a letter signed by business leaders as part of The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Back on Track campaign.

The campaign is calling on Ministers to reinstate plans to electrify the north transpennine line and to set out a clear timetable for its delivery.

Lord O’Neill wrote: “Rebalancing the economy is a fundamental part of the government’s econoic plan, with investment in transport infrastructure a crucial means of achieving this.”

He said new Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy would put its investment plans on a “sustainable footing”.

“In the meantime, the government remains fully committed to providing a 21st century railway to connect up Yorkshire and the north more generally, and is considering all options for delivering on this ambition,” he added.

Lord O’Neill underlined the Government’s other commitments to invest in transport in the region including the removal of outdated diesel trains used by commuters into Leeds.

New trains will also be introduced on the East Coast Main Line connecting Leeds to London and Edinburgh in the next three years.

The Government is planning to give cities such as Leeds more control over transport matters in the future.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced in June that the electrification plans would be put on hold amid concerns about Network Rail’s management of its investment programme.

Sir Peter’s revised proposals are expected to be published the autumn.