Sheffield politicians have united to condemn the decision to halt work on electrifying rail lines between the city and London - describing it as a ‘blow’ and a ‘disaster.’
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the House of Commons work on the Midland Mainline and the Transpennine route between Leeds and Manchester would be ‘paused’ as a £38 billion five year plan to overhaul railways is reset, because it is taking too long and costing too much.
The Midland Mainline plan was hailed as a way to cut journey times between Sheffield and London, attracting more businesses and boosting the area’s prosperity when it was announced in 2012.
Labour MP Clive Betts, who represents Sheffield South East, said he was ‘furious.’
He added: “In 2014, this Secretary of State personally promised me in Parliament that Midland Mainline electrification would be completed by 2020 at the very latest. He said that the only discussion was as to whether it might be finished earlier by 2019.
“I am angry and appalled by the announcement, which is a direct kick in the teeth for local people and businesses.”
Mr McLoughlin blamed Network Rail, saying chiefs should have foreseen problems, and that electrification of the Great Western Line from London to Wales was his ‘top priority.’
He said work on electrification for Midland Mainline would be part of future plans.
Sheffield Hallam Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg said the news showed northern cities would not get a ‘fair deal’ under the Conservative Government despite ‘warm words’ of a northern Powerhouse.
He added: “This is a disaster for Yorkshire and runs totally against the schemes I promoted in Government, which were designed to increase connectivity between northern cities.
“Only by developing these key routes can we help boost the economies of cities like Leeds and Sheffield, create jobs for local people and encourage business to invest. Electrification of the Midland Main Line and Trans-Pennine Line were a key part of the plan we followed in Government to deliver prosperity for our area.
Julie Dore, leader of Labour-controlled Sheffield Council, called for the decision to be reversed ‘immediately.’
She added: “Electrification of the Midland Mainline is vital for improving transport connectivity for Sheffield and an integral part of building the economic growth we all want to see.
“It is essential the Government honour the promises that they made on electrification and the announcement is a blow for those of us committed to building a stronger north.
Jake Kelly, managing director of East Midlands Trains, said he was ‘naturally disappointed’ but the minister ‘recognised’ the need for more capacity, new rolling stock and faster journey times.