Is it the end of the line for Hull electrification?
FirstGroup Hull Trains has ordered five AT300 ‘bi-modal’ (electro-diesel) sets from Hitachi in a £60m deal to be financed by Angel Trains. The new five car trains will be delivered in 2019 but the announcement has undermined the case for the long awaited Hull-Selby electrification.
The Hull Trains track access contract (TAC) with the ORR was extended by 10 years in March from 2019 to 2029. The HT case was based on a lengthy gestation period to recoup investment in new bi-modal (but not pure electric) trains.
The AT300s will operate as normal electric trains to Temple Hirst Junction, north of Doncaster, then switch to diesel mode to Selby, Hull and Beverley.
The electrification of the Hull to Selby line – which is also used by First Group-owned TransPennine Express and Arriva-owned Northern – is now beginning to look increasingly unlikely. Both TPE and Northern placed orders for new replacement rolling stock, and these like the HT order, assume that the existing traction order on this stretch of track will remain non electric for the foreseeable future.
Electrification was mooted to cost £100m and would have been privately funded. First Group was expected to make an acceptable contribution towards the cost and present a sound business case. Following news about the HT order, however, FG declined to comment on where the electrification plan now stood.
Electrification would also have extended westward of Selby to Micklefield Junction to join the York to Leeds line (which is being electrified under the separate Trans Pennine scheme).
The DfT has also been very evasive on the subject: Ministers have evaded questions from local MPs regarding lack of progress. The latest news is that Paul Maynard, DfT parliamentary under secretary, was “considering the case”, and that there would be a “decision in due course”.
No one should be holding their breath though.
To electrify the line now would entail costly adjustments to recently made plans, and that is most unlikely. Critics of fragmentation will see this as another example of the dysfunctional railway. In the old order one planned the electrification first then ordered the trains, not the other way round.
It’s beginning to look as though the cart has been put before the horse again.