Rail Minister promises Hull to Selby electrification will happen, but won’t commit to when
THE Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce visited the House of Commons to see Rail Minister Huw Merriman in a meeting organised by MPs Dame Diana Johnson and Emma Hardy following the cancellation of the northern legs of HS2.
Beverley MP Graham Stuart also attended the meeting along with local rail expert David Walford who highlighted the technical issues as the Humber’s rail services once again face being downgraded.
Local Council Leaders Mike Ross from Hull and Anne Handley from the East Riding dialled in to the meeting.
One of the key asks, and one initially promised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during the HS2 announcement, was the electrification of the Selby to Hull line.
Huw Merriman told the meeting that he was a big fan of rail noting he was the Transport Select Committee Chair before becoming Rail Minister. He said that following the cancellation of the Northern legs of HS2, £36-billion was available for other projects and that the electrification of that section of line would happen, although when pressed by the MPs and the Chamber he said he wouldn’t put any timescales on when work was likely to start.
“HS2 wasn’t done well and the last thing I want to do is replicate those mistakes. There have been lots of promises on projects over the years and I don’t want to make any promises that can’t be kept.”
“I’m sick and tired of railways not being done properly and I don’t want to throw dates out and then not deliver. If I promise something, I want to be able to deliver it,” he said. “We just need to pause for a while and have a bit of breathing space before we commit to more projects.”
The Minister promised he would ask the new managing director of Trans-Pennine Express, Chris Jackson, to engage with the MPs and the Chamber and would also raise our serious concerns with Transport for the North after hearing our previous discussions had effectively been ignored.
Issues around freight services between the ports of Hull and Liverpool across the Pennines were also raised and the Minister said he was very keen to get freight off the roads and onto rail.
Chamber Chief Executive, Dr Ian Kelly, said: “We had a detailed and candid discussion with Rail Minister Huw Merriman in the Commons.
“He promised us the money which was being saved by the cancellation of the HS2 Project would be available for electrification work on the Hull to Selby line and other rail improvements locally. However he was at this stage unable to commit to any timescales for work to begin.
“He also said that he was mindful of the freight issues and was looking at what could be done to improve those and wanted to see more freight on the railways and off the roads.“
The proposals for the reopening of the Hull to York railway line were also discussed with the Minister promising to investigate the possibilities and potential costs, recognising that there was a significant potential benefit to the region for that scheme to be progressed.