MP hits out at hold-up in rail investment

Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox.
Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox.

A North Kirklees MP has slammed the Government on delays to transport improvements following the release of minutes from a rail bosses’ meeting.

Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox called for an inquiry into the halted electrification of the Trans-Pennine line after minutes from a Network Rail directors’ meeting held in March were made public through a Freedom of Information request.

Mrs Cox said: “I asked ministers directly in Parliament when they knew of the plans to shelve the Trans-Pennine electrification and they refused to answer. Instead we got bluster and evasion and misdirection.

“Did they know before the election and keep the news secret until afterwards? It now looks like the smoking gun has been unearthed.

“The content of the minutes shows ministers must have known that the electrification was going to be ‘paused’.

“When the transport secretary said before the election that the Conservatives would electrify 800 miles of track he must have known about the Network Rail decision. He should come to the House of Commons immediately to explain this situation fully and openly.”

The Department for Transport said it was only made aware of the possibility of delays after the general election.

On a visit to West Yorkshire this week Chancellor George Osborne said he was “as frustrated as anyone” about delays to the electrification of the Trans-Pennine line, which runs through North Kirklees.

He said: “We will still see some major improvements on that line going ahead and the services are going to improve and we’re going to get rid of the old trains but we have also got to get the line electrified for the future and we are making sure we see what has gone wrong with the organisation, Network Rail, that was supposed to have delivered this.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “In recent months the Government told Network Rail it needed a more accurate assessment of its cost and delivery schedule. Network Rail provided that detailed assessment after the election and, as a result, the scale of Network Rail’s problems have only now become clear.”

Network Rail declined to comment.