ELECTRIFICATION between York and Manchester across the Pennines has been delayed indefinitely.
Network Rail has explained that it is putting the scheme on hold so that further development can be worked out first to yield the maximum benefits, but industry observers claim that problems encountered in electrifying the line between Manchester and Liverpool are also a factor.
Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, has condemned the delay as 'unacceptable', and is demanding a meeting with Network Rail and the Department for Transport.
Mr Reynolds, who said he was 'incredibly disappointed', added: "We are now in a situation where passenger numbers are increasing at stations like Stalybridge and Mossley and this electrification is badly needed. Yet the government and Network Rail cannot even give a set date when the delayed work will be completed. This is unacceptable, and I will be writing to the rail minister and Network Rail to demand a meeting with both."
The Department for Transport said "Network Rail has been working with the department to ensure that this work will be planned as efficiently as possible, and we cannot clarify the completion date until the planning is completed," while Network Rail explained that the change of timetable was to "take the maximum advantage that this investment opportunity presents", with the aim of accelerating journey times and increasing capacity.
However, a spokesman added: "This means the original plan to deliver the electrification project by 2019 will take longer as more work is needed and the plans for the new, bigger scheme are currently under way."
There has been growing concern in the industry about some other electrification projects, with work on the Great Western Main Line currently beset by slipping deadlines, construction problems and rising costs.