My vision for fully-electrified Transpennine rail will cost more than £2.9bn budget set by Chris Grayling, says Grant Shapps
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says a bigger budget than the £2.9bn set by his predecessor Chris Grayling will be needed for the Transpennine route to become a "first-class, fully-electrified" railway.
The Cabinet Minister said the benefits of £589m in new funding for the 76-mile route connecting Leeds with Manchester, Huddersfield and York will be felt by passengers before the next scheduled General Election in 2024.
The funding announced today will be used to speed up trains and boost reliability on the vital route by electrifying much of the line and doubling the number of tracks from two to four on congested stretches.
But Mr Shapps says his ambition is for the line to be a "first-class, fully-electrified railway with more four-tracking and room for freight, not an also-ran in comparison with the East and West Coast Mainlines".
This is a stark contrast to the position of his predecessor as Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, who set a Budget of £2.9bn for the long-awaited upgrade of the route which meant full electrification was not possible.
In 2017 Mr Grayling insisted that there may be insufficient benefits to justify the cost of electrification, despite senior Tories David Cameron and George Osborne repeatedly pointing to their promise to electrify the Transpennine route as evidence of their commitment to the North.
Though the benefits in terms of journey times may be marginal due to the nature of the route, electric trains are thought to be better performing and more reliable as well as better for the environment than diesel trains.
But electrifying the entire route across the Pennines, given what a Network Rail boss described as its "inherently challenging topography", is likely to be costly.
Asked about the budget for the scheme, Mr Shapps told The Yorkshire Post: "It's great to actually finally be getting on with it so the £589 million today for phase one actually delivers stuff and it does it within this Parliament by 2024.
"So that's very important but if we're going to go for full electrification, we're going to have three or four tracks all the way through, if we're really going to speed up that journey, then clearly it will need more money.
"And so I think it's a clear direction of travel, that we're determined to do it properly."
He said more details would be released as part of the Integrated Rail Plan to be published this year, which sets out how HS2 will integrate with other major rail projects.
He said: "We'll say more about that at the end of the year. But yes you've spotted the obvious point which is of course we'll need to raise our ambitions as far as the money is concerned too.
"Our plan is, and the reason for getting on with this, is that by 2024, people are seeing improvements. In fact I think they may well see improvements earlier but I'd rather not over promise and under deliver on that.
"This phase one actually enables us to get on with stuff now and deliver now so people should see in rail terms reasonably rapid improvements as part of a much bigger plan, not just on TRU but on transport across the North."
Kim Groves, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said she would be "seeking reassurance that the plans are still based upon the full electrification of the line, which will provide the optimum improvements in terms of journey times for people travelling between Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Manchester and beyond and support our carbon reduction plans".
She added: "Our priorities for the region remain for both Northern Powerhouse Rail and a fully electrified Transpennine route to boost our economic growth and to improve the lives of millions of people. We will continue to call for these projects to be delivered as soon as possible.”
Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, said the upgrades to the Transpennine route "are desperately needed to bring about transformational change across the network".
He said: "This will help increase capacity, reliability and connectivity between Redcar and Middlesbrough to York, Leeds and Manchester, giving our passengers, businesses and, ultimately, freight services the links they deserve.”