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John Demands Answers On Railway's Electrification Work

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The full force of local peoples' dismay at the decision to delay rail electrification to the city was felt by the Rail Minister as John and other local MPs voiced their "outrage" on Thursday evening.

All four Bristol MPs and those from the wider region took part in a debate in Parliament as they demanded answers about when the upgrade, which had been meant to deliver journey times of just over an hour to London, would now take place.

But no guarantees were given by Rail Minister Paul Maynard, who said he could not speculate on when the work would be resumed.

Trains running on electricity were expected to be serving Bristol by 2020 – a date that had already slipped by two years – but the Department for Transport's decision to "defer" the work, due to ballooning costs, means it is unlikely to be ready until 2024.

The electrification from Bath to London and Cardiff to London will still go ahead, however, and trains from Bristol to London will be 15 minutes quicker because of improvements made elsewhere on the line, according to the DfT.

John Penrose, Tory MP for Weston-super-Mare, was even more equivocal and suggested that electrification to places like Wales should be paused instead given that Bristol provides "a huge economic benefit" and is one of the few cities in the UK which makes more money for the Treasury than it takes.

"Doesn't it seem strange that other areas have been preferred for electrification?" asked the former minister.

Mr Maynard said: "I'm not prepared to do a part-announcement on Control Period 6 depending on whatever debate I happen to be in at any point in time."

Mr Maynard told the MPs in Westminster Hall that, while electrification "does bring benefits", the work on the line had been held up due to how busy it was and because of catering for heritage sites along the route.

"Passenger outcomes must be delivered while providing the best value for the taxpayer," he told them.

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