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Nick Hill

Sheffield City Council “extremely disappointed” over Midland Mainline announcement

The government is one the receiving end of a rather large backlash after deciding to ‘pause’ a £500m project to electrify the Midland Mainline.

The multi-million pound project, announced as part of a five-year plan in 2013, aims to electrify the route from London to Sheffield through the East Midlands, to make journeys to and from the capital much faster.

This would attract more businesses to the region and and boost the area’s economy.

However, earlier this week Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced that the electrification process will be “paused” due to rising costs and ongoing delays.

“Work on electrification will be paused. I want it to be done and done well. It will be part of our future plans for the route,” he said.

The government’s announcement has united city leaders, politicians and councillors, who have all condemned the decision to halt the project, which was due to be finished by 2019.

Councillor Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, Chair of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said: “Sheffield City Region is extremely disappointed the Government has chosen to pause the long-awaited and much-needed investment in the electrification of the Midland Mainline railway.

“We urge Government to set a new deadline for when work will commence. Certainty is crucial for supply chains to gear up for delivery, this statement is far from certain.

“We sincerely hope this does not impact on the further planned improvements to Sheffield train station and the Hope Valley line which are key components in the vision for the Northern Powerhouse.”

Peter Kennan, Chair of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Transport Forum, and Partner at Hawsons Chartered Accountants, added: “Sheffield City Region businesses have every right to be disappointed at this announcement.

“A ‘pause’ was announced in electrification plans for the Midland Main Line but the issue is - how long is that pause and could the whole electrification project be kicked into the long grass as too costly and difficult to achieve at a time where Network Rail has to rein in and get better control of its finances?

“Worse still could the electrification from London to Sheffield be extended but finish short of Sheffield, leaving the City Region at a competitive disadvantage? Budget cuts could always ultimately lead to that conclusion.

“Businesses in Sheffield City Region deserve better than this. Under-investment in the northern cities has been endemic for decades and this latest setback, coupled with the pause in Manchester to Leeds electrification, is a major disappointment and suggests a cooling of ambition to achieve a credible Northern Powerhouse.”

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