Opposition gathers to protest Government decision to scrap rail electrification in Sheffield

A union campaign to reverse the Government's controversial decision to scrap electrification of railway lines in Sheffield, other parts of the North, the Midlands and Wales is being stepped up.
A union campaign to reverse the Government's controversial decision to scrap electrification of railway lines in Sheffield, other parts of the North, the Midlands and Wales is being stepped up.

A union campaign to reverse the Government's controversial decision to scrap electrification of railway lines in Sheffield, other parts of the North, the Midlands and Wales is being stepped up.

The Midland Main Line was due to be electrified by 2023, in a move transport chiefs said would speed up trains, increase capacity and reduce the need for track maintenance.

The Department for Transport claimed this new technology would cut long-distance journey times from Sheffield by up to 20 minutes and provide more than 1,000 extra peak-time seats an hour to London without the need for 'disruptive' electrification works.

But Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sparked outrage with an announcement just before Parliament went into summer recess last month that routes between Nottingham and Sheffield; Cardiff and Swansea; Kettering and Windermere and Oxenholme would not be electrified.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, is meeting local authority transport leaders and MPs in Yorkshire on Monday to ask for support for the campaign.

Last month, Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central branded the announcement 'an utter disgrace'. "This is a betrayal of promises made to Sheffield not once but twice. The Government said that electrification would bring cleaner, faster and more reliable services for passengers.

"Now they're saying Sheffield can’t have it," he added. "At a time when there has never been a greater focus on the impact of diesel fuel on the environment their decision to scrap electrification is incredibly irresponsible."

Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accused the Government of 'taking people for a ride'.

And Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "This government's talk of rail investment is just jam tomorrow when in reality important upgrade and renewal work across the UK is being shelved and scrapped due to on-going austerity."