MPs have spoken of their disappointment after news that plans for electrification of the Midland Mainline near Kettering had been put on hold.
Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin made the announcement last week, saying that rising costs and delays in schemes to improve other parts of the railway network has necessitated a move to ‘pause’ the £800 million project.
Instead of upgrading the line, changes will be made to increase passenger capacity.
Mr McLoughlin said: ““I am determined that the work to electrify the Midland mainline will be done, and done well. Before electrification passengers on the route will still receive better services, including through separate work to allow trains to run at higher speeds on the line.
“We will increase capacity in the Leicester and Nottinghamshire areas, and will make station and track improvements at Market Harborough to improve journey times for passengers to and from London.
“We will still be spending £38 billion, and building HS2. It is a pause, not a stop, and the changes I have ordered will strengthen Network Rail to make sure the company delivers. We remain hugely ambitious and that is why the budget remains intact.”
Speaking this week, Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, said he was disappointed about the delay.
He added: “Network Rail have completely let us down.
“As far as I can understand it, they hopelessly underestimated the amount of work which needed to be done on the Great Western line.
“The Midland Mainline was always going to be done after that, and it appears as if the money they allocated for the Midland Mainline work has instead been spent on the Great Western line.
“The directors of Network Rail have serious questions to answer.”
Mr Bone said he hoped the capacity of the network would be increased in the meantime.
He added: “There are currently five trains an hour heading north out of London, and that could increase to six, which would increase capacity by about a fifth.
“That’s good news, but when you look at the cost of HS2, about £50 billion, I think a lot of people won’t be able to understand why a tiny fraction of that amount couldn’t be spent on the Midland Mainline.”
Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, also said the news was a blow to Kettering train commuters.
He added: “It is clear that Network Rail has over-promised and under-delivered on its national electrification project.
“The great shame for us locally is that cost overruns and management of the electrification of the Great Western railway means that the electrification of the Midland Mainline will have to be put back.
“I am hoping that we can now campaign for improvements to the Midland Mainline ahead of electrification.”