As Published in The Hull Daily Mail
MPs ‘hopeful’ of Hull electrification announcement in Budget after meeting with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
A delegation of MPs, city councillors and business leaders have concluded a “positive” meeting with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
The meeting, held at the Department for Transport (DfT) in London this morning, was to discuss ambitious proposals by First Hull Trains to electrify the railway lines in and out of Hull.
Speaking as he left the meeting, Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson, who led the lobby, said he was hopeful the Government would endorse the scheme in the Budget in March.
During the meeting, Mr McLoughlin was told that the scheme was needed to accommodate the 12 million extra visitors expected to come to Hull during the 2017 City of Culture celebrations.
Mr Johnson said: “It was a very positive meeting. This was not a meeting with a Secretary of State who was looking to lower our expectations.
“I felt that this was a Secretary of State who was looking to save up any announcement until the appropriate time, which was not today.
“However, I am hopeful that we will get an announcement in the Budget.
“The question is not about whether this scheme gets done. It will get the go-ahead.
“The question is whether we go ahead with it now or in four years’ time. But we made the case that the City of Culture celebrations present a unique opportunity – that will not be replicated by any of the other electrification bids – and I believe that was something he was very taken with.”
Councillor Martin Mancey, Hull City Council’s transport portfolio holder, said: “We came to the meeting without any expectation that a decision would be made today.
“What I would say is that the Secretary of State listened attentively to the case we made which emphasised the need to bring forward this scheme in advance of 2017.
“He actually said that he really took that point and would take it away with him for further consideration, so I am cautiously optimistic that this scheme will be progressed and I will be looking closely at the Budget.
“We don’t actually need a huge amount of money from the Government – around £2.5 million – to progress this scheme, so I am hopeful that they will see it is a small sum that could secure them a valuable political victory.”
Councillor Mancey said he made the case that an additional 12 million visitors are expected to make the journey to Hull for the 2017 celebrations.
“We need 21st century rail links before the start of the City of Culture because not having them could prove to be embarrassing with both national and international focus on the city as well as significant media interest,” he said.
In total, 13 representatives met Mr McLoughlin, including a cross-party group of MPs.
Mr Johnson, Hull North MP Diana Johnson, Haltemprice and Howden MP Davis Davis, Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart and Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy all attended the meeting.
Lord Haskins, Chair of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Ian Kelly, Chief Executive, Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce and Will Dunnett, Managing Director of first Hull Trains, were also present.
Representatives from both local authorities included Councillor Mancey, Councillor Stephen Baker, Councillor John Fareham, Mike Ibbotson, Hull City Council’s Transportation Policy Manager and Councillor Jonathan Owen, Deputy Leader of East Riding Council.
Hull First Trains had expected to hear before Christmas whether its £94m scheme to electrify the 70 miles of track between Hull and Selby would get the go-ahead from Government.
But despite warnings that the timetable for the works, which could have been completed in time for the 2017 City of Culture celebrations, would slip without urgent ministerial approval, the Government is still yet to sign off the proposals.
Mr Johnson requested the meeting following an announcement by the DfT late last year that it is setting up a taskforce to look into electrifying the line, which will not report back for another year.
First Hull Trains has submitted a business plan to Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT).
Under its private finance deal, about £94m would be spent to install 70 miles of electrified Overhead Line Equipment (OHLE) to cover tracks both ways from Hull to Temple Hirst Junction, five miles to the west of Selby.
The funding would also include the procurement of new electric trains.
Hull Trains’ aim would be to undertake the works in the period 2014-17 so that this would be the first section of the Trans-Pennine route to be completed east of Manchester and ready to serve the needs of the City of Culture in 2017.