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Scrapping rail electrification projects will lengthen journey times, increase carbon emissions and raise the cost of running the network, the Labour party has warned. The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, announced in July that plans to electrify lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North have been cancelled or downgraded.
Labour has claimed that this would increase journey times, including those between Manchester and Liverpool, by nearly half an hour, and between Leeds and Newcastle by over 20 minutes. It also puts the estimated 19-minute cut to journey times from new trains between Swansea and London at risk, according to the analysis.
Electrification can cut CO2 emissions by 20%-30% compared with diesel trains and slash maintenance costs by a third, Labour said. The party also accused the government of undermining the Crossrail for the north project, which aims to boost east-west rail services in northern England, as the route would not be fully electrified.
The shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said: “Pulling the plug on electrification shows the Tories’ disregard for Wales and Yorkshire, which will continue to suffer from underinvestment, and proves the Midlands engine and the northern powerhouse are just more empty slogans from this government.
“The Tories are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by claiming that diesel bi-mode trains will deliver the same benefits as electrification, despite saying for years that failure to electrify the network costs more in the long run, causes more pollution, worsens air quality, lessens capacity and makes services slower and less reliable.
“Not only will Labour deliver the promised electrification, we will address the imbalance in transport infrastructure spending, committing to building a Crossrail for the north and enhancing and expanding the rail network in order to drive economic growth and rebalance our economy.”
Grayling sparked anger by supporting a new £30bn Crossrail 2 scheme in London and the south-east just days after the electrification announcement.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, met Swansea West’s Labour MP, Geraint Davies, in a bid to get Grayling’s decision reversed. He said: “Chris Grayling disgracefully cancelled the much-needed upgrading of the South Wales mainline between Cardiff and Swansea as parliament was going into recess, so he couldn’t be held to account in the House of Commons for his sneak U-turn. But there’s more than one way to hold the Tories to account for breaking their promises.
“I will be meeting Geraint today to discuss kickstarting a new campaign in Wales which keeps the upgrading of rail across the country – not just in South Wales – at the top of the political agenda, and one which makes the Tories pay at the ballot box for the contempt they have shown to Wales. Labour’s 2017 manifesto has already committed to bringing Welsh rail companies back into public ownership when the franchises expire.
“We will be now be working to ensure the next Labour manifesto pledges to reverse the Tories’ broken promises and honour the commitment made to electrify Welsh rail lines as soon as the next Labour government gets into power.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The government is completely committed to improving services for passengers in every part of the country - and to suggest otherwise is nonsense.
“By investing in new train technology, we’re able to deliver all the benefits of electrification, but without the disruption of massive engineering works.
“We’re spending 55.7 billion building HS2, which will provide a massive boost to the Northern Powerhouse by better connecting it to London and the Midlands.
“And we’re completely committed to working with Transport for the North as they develop their proposals for a high-speed Northern Powerhouse rail service across the Pennines.”
This article first appeared on www.theguardian.com
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