The DfT replies – optimism on Elland, tentative on electrification (HADRAG Dec’20 update)

WE HAVE a reply – HERE – from the Department for Transport to our September letter to Grant Shapps (see previous post).

There is reassurance that Elland station is still on schedule for the end of 2022 (see also below), and that Network Rail’s revolutionary TDNS (the interim traction decarbonisation network strategy, published September 2020) will inform the Department’s wider decarbonisation strategy.

Meanwhile, at the Yorkshire Post’s Great Northern Conference earlier this Autumn, the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps replied to our question. The tone was a little sotto voce, but yes, the Secretary of State said, we’ll be electrifying more railways. He also mentioned hydrogen but said it took a lot of of power to generate, which seemed to be an acknowledgement that hydrogen trains are a much less efficient way of delivering traction energy than overhead electric wires.

We are optimists. We see evidence the Department for Transport gets it, understands the science. With a holistic economic view electrification will pay for itself through future savings in train operating costs – as well as through the benefits to humanity of having zero-carbon transport. We still have to convince the Treasury and must press the case through our MPs. More on the Electric Railway Charter blog. This should be headline stuff right now with Boris Johnson’s new target to cut greenhouse gases by 68% by 2039, amid a perfect storm of cuts to Network Rail’s budget and lack of progress on schemes promised five or ten years ago. The TransPennine route upgrade was announced in 2011 as a full-electrification project. A decision on how much of the Manchester-Huddersfield-York route will actually be electrified is now expected in mid 2021. That’s a decade gone.

TDNS provides backing for the Northern Sparks task force report that recommended electrification – well beyond TRU – of the Calder Valley and other northern routes. That was to be 12 routes in an initial 5-year plan, recommendations made almost six years ago. There is a clear match-up, as a short report at a November meeting of Yorkshire and neighbouring Railfuture branches explained.

Elland station could be no more than two years away. Ground for optimism include the possibility of the new station providing an alternative railhead when the route through Huddersfield is closed for work on TRU. We know from more than one source that this has been under discussion. With planning on TRU -both 4-tracking between Huddersfield and Dewsbury and the extent of electrification – still under discussion, it makes sense to get Elland done first.

JSW