MP: No blank cheques for rail electrification scheme

ANDREW JONES: Defended decision to pause electrification  of the Northern lines.
ANDREW JONES: Defended decision to pause electrification of the Northern lines.

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to place a major rail electrification scheme on hold shows the Government will not provide blank cheques to projects that are over-spending, according to a Yorkshire MP.

Andrew Jones, Under-Secretary for Transport, defended the decision to pause the electrification of the Northern lines from the east of Stalybridge, when he attended the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership annual conference.

The electrification of the transpennine and Midland Main Line routes was put on hold by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin last month as he ordered a review of Network Rail’s £38bn investment plan because of rising costs and slipping timescales.

Mr Jones, who is the Tory MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said: “We have paused it because Network Rail came to Ministers and said, ‘We are seeing projects over-running and over-running in terms of time and money’.

“We cannot be in a position where there is a blank cheque for people who are over-spending.”

He told the audience at The Pavilions of Harrogate: “When civil servants come to talk to you about how they will have a deficit or over-spend in the billions, that is not acceptable.

“If people are in a hole, it is good management to stop them digging. That is what we have done.”

But he added: “We’ll make sure they get back to this project.

“This project is at the heart of empowering the rail network in the North to deliver what we want.

“Rail in the North, will, through electrification, boost capacity and boost connectivity.”

Last week, Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox tabled a House of Commons motion backing the Back on Track campaign calling for the Government to restart the electrification schemes.