A government decision not to electrify the Midland Main Line railway all the way through the East Midlands is wrong, a leading business group has said.
The announcement this morning that trains used on the route will have both diesel and electric power units is not good news for the area, the East Midlands Chamber has said.
The Department for Transport said new modern bi-mode trains will be used on the line, cutting long distance journey times from Nottingham and Sheffield by up to 20 minutes. It added that thanks to the new technology, disruptive electrification works between Nottingham and Sheffield, will no longer be needed.
But the Chamber has hit back at the decision, with Chief Executive Scott Knowles commenting: "Once again, the East Midlands is being disadvantaged as a consquence of a London-centric focus on the rail network.
"Recently, we were told that some of our services to and from London will be slower in future because priority is being given to Thameslink Trains on shared routes.
"Not that long ago we were told the Midland Main Line would be electrified all the way to Sheffield. This would improve services because electric trains accelerate and brake more efficiently than heavier diesels and the enhanced operation would give scope for more services to run.
"Then electrification was paused because of the cost, then "unpaused", but now seems to be off the table altogether beyond Kettering.
“The ‘bi-mode’ trains that the Government now appears to favour will be heavier than existing stock because they have two powertrains, accelerate more slowly and take longer to stop. They’ll also have to stop for longer at Kettering as they switch from one power source to the other, so we will have a worse service than now.
“And today’s announcement seems to fly in the face of the announcement earlier this week that electric HS2 trains will run on existing Midland Main Line tracks through Chesterfield and Sheffield, so that part of the track is going to have to be electrified.
“That means there will be only a 70-mile stretch between Kettering and Chesterfield that won’t be electrified, and that doesn’t make economic sense.”
The government added that the new trains will maximise the benefits of the largest upgrade of the Midland Main Line since it opened in 1870, improving journeys sooner without the need for wires and masts on the whole route. It added that benefits will also include delivering over 1,000 additional seats an hour in the peak into London, an increase of more than 50%.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era and upgrading services across the country, including in Wales, the Midlands and the North.
“Passengers expect and deserve high quality rail services and we are committed to using the best available technology for each part of the network, delivering significant benefits for those who use our railways.”