Harrogate MP - ‘Rail improvement pause is the right thing’

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Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP has said that pausing proposed rail improvement work is the right thing to do to prevent spending spiraling out of control.

This comes as pressure on the government to ‘unpause’ the rail improvements promised ahead of the election mounts, with our sister title, The Yorkshire Post, launching a campaign to get rail electrification ‘Back on Track’.

Last month Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs that a £38 billion five year plan to overhaul Britain’s railways is being ‘reset’ because ‘it is costing more and taking longer’.

The announcement came just weeks after the general election when Conservatives had pledged improvement transport to create a ‘Northern powerhouse’.

Andrew Jones MP said the pause was frustrating and disapointing but neccesary to avoid huge over spends.

He said: “Stopping the pause would lead to continued overspends of billions of pounds.

“Lets pause and make sure that we get this thing right and don’t spend billions of pounds wrongly. We still plan to invest in the northern railways but we need to get it under control.”

Network Rail have been blasted for its handling of the projects which ministers say saw spending running out of control. Former Transport for London boss, Sir Peter Hendy, has been called in to chair the organisation and carry out a review of the billion pound improvement programme.

Mr Jones said: “The organisation charged with the delivery of the £38bn upgrade, Network Rail, has simply not performed well enough and is some way from being able to complete the work asked of it.

“Clearly, that is not something that can be left unaddressed. That is why there have been significant changes at the top of Network Rail.”

Commuters and campaigners rejoiced in March it was announced that the York-Harrogate-Leeds line was a ‘top priority’ to be electrified in the next batch of rail infrastructure improvement projects set to begin in 2019.

Documents unearthed last week indicated Network Rail was preparing for the schemes to be put on hold before the election, Mr Jones has said he was unaware of these. Mr McLoughlin has also denied that the pause represented a ‘cynical betrayal of voters’.