TSSA demands rail electrification guarantee

Network Rail engineers in high vis doing overhead wires and improvement works at Leeds station

Rail union TSSA has written to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps demanding answers over reports that rail electrification projects “have been shelved”.

Reports in the media over the weekend included claims that the Treasury has blocked funding for rail electrification projects. TSSA says that – if true – such a move would be “unconscionable” and is calling on the government to guarantee “absolutely vital” rail electrification projects in order to hit decarbonisation targets.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, explained: “If this media speculation is true then our climate commitments will lie in tatters barely a month after hosting COP26.

“I’ve written to the Transport Secretary for answers on this as electrification of rail cannot be delayed. Our railways – and the communities and jobs that it supports – cannot be sold short by more Tory negligence.

“We’ve seen and heard far too much greenwash from this government and their track record on rail electrification falls far short of what’s needed. This cannot be the end of the line for rail electrification – commitments and actions for decarbonisation and job creation across our rail infrastructure are urgently needed.”

The full text of Manuel Cortes’s letter to Grant Shapps is copied below.

Dear Grant, 

I’m writing regarding reports in the media over the weekend that the Treasury has blocked funding for rail electrification projects. Can you please give us an update on the truth of this? 

On Saturday, the Telegraph published an article claiming that plans to electrify our railways “have been shelved”. Just one month after hosting COP26, such a decision would be unconscionable.

As you know, we desperately need to speed up the electrification of our railways to get away from dirty, polluting diesel engines and help meet our carbon reduction targets. There is consensus across our industry and political parties about the need to do this important work and many plans have been drawn up in recent years for it.  

Not only will rail electrification help meet decarbonisation targets, it will make our railways more attractive, quieter, cleaner and also create hundreds – if not thousands – of skilled jobs in the process. 

The most efficient and cost-effective way of delivering large scale electrification projects is to have a clear commitment from government and a rolling project plan which allows our industry to recruit and implement projects with confidence.  

Recent decisions have thwarted electrification efforts. For example, your predecessor’s – Chris Grayling – decision in 2017 to cancel the Great Western Electrification Project part way through. And pausing the Transpennine Route Upgrade between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, and York - announced in 2012 but paused in 2015 - and still no news whether electrification will reach the section that actually crosses the Pennines. 

If we are to achieve a net-zero rail network by 2050 (and from a climate point of view, preferably earlier) electrifications projects are absolutely vital. 

I hope that you will be able to reassure us that electrification projects will be fully switched on from 2022 onwards. 

Yours sincerely, 

Manuel Cortes 

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