Lack of suitable stock might scupper northern electrification
The full benefits of the ongoing electrification in the north will not be realised unless provision for new electric trains is made in the new Transpennine and Northern rail franchises.
That’s the main message to emerge from evidence submitted to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee’s ‘Investing in the Railway’ debate (September 1).
Presenting evidence for Rail North, Merseytravel’s Director General, David Brown, said: “Now is the right time to include within the specification for these franchises the operational requirements that will make the most of the infrastructure that is being provided. If you don’t do it now, then you have missed the opportunity for quite a long time, so now’s the time to build in requirements around smart ticketing, upgrades to and replacement of rolling stock, and service enhancements, to make the most of the electrification that is being produced.
“The ITT (invitation to tender) for both Northern and TransPennine is not written yet; it is due to be completed by December. We (at Rail North) are clearly saying that future franchises for both these operations have to have adequate provision, in both the number and quality of trains, to meet growing demand.”
Brown told the meeting –chaired by Mrs Louise Ellman, and attended by eight other members of Parliament – that both northern franchises had been let on a no-growth basis: “Despite this and the economic position, we’ve seen growth in the rail sector for every year for 10 years, but we’ve had no significant investment in rolling stock, station facilities or infrastructure and we now face significant capacity problems in certain places. We have major issues with both the quality and quantity of existing rolling stock.”
Older electric trains are expected to be cascaded to the north when the new Thameslink is introduced over the next few years. Two four-car Class 319 units should be transferred for Liverpool-Manchester services in December 2014, with another ten or twelve units following suit in 2015. The 319s, however, are of pre-privatisation vintage dating from the 1980s BR era.
“In the north having adequate electric trains – or indeed, bigger diesel trains – is absolutely essential to unlock economic growth, and that constantly being at the end of a cascade to take trains that are fairly old from elsewhere into the north is not the best way of making the most of electrification,” commented Brown.
“It is somewhat of an insult to the whole of the north of England that we get London’s cast-offs,” added Graham Stringer, committee member, and MP for Blackley and Broughton.
Brown said 220 additional carriages would be needed for a do-nothing scenario (to maintain existing services) but 460 might be required for additional services: “However, there is no clarity from the Treasury on whether there is funding for these new trains, though I’m sure the details will be fleshed out over the next six months.”
Ellman (Chair) concluded: “We understand that the final costs of northern electrification have not yet been determined. We spoke to DfT officials very recently about the issue, but they said the final costs were not yet known.”