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Cuts coupled with damning reports could mean more delays for rail upgrades

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A Sheffield MP has raised the prospect of even deeper delays to rail electrification projects in Yorkshire in light of the Spending Review and two reports into rail infrastructure investment published on the same day.

Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, expressed her anger that the government sought to conceal their confirmation that the projects to electrify the Midland Mainline and Transpennine Express routes will not be delivered until up to five years later than originally promised by trying to sneak it out late in the afternoon on the same day as the Autumn Statement.

But she said that the projects could yet be dragged even further into the future because of the huge cuts announced in day-to-day spending in the Department of Transport by the Chancellor, saying it will make the chronic shortage of skilled staff needed to complete infrastructure projects – a key factor in the delays already incurred – even worse.

Louise Haigh MP said:

“Ministers have cynically tried to hide the confirmation that mainline electrification will take up to 5 years longer to reach Sheffield than originally planned by sneaking out Sir Peter Hendy’s report on the same day as the Spending Review.

“A separate report, also published on Wednesday, raised ‘deep concerns’ at the process of planning and oversight within the Department for Transport and indicated that this contributed to delays and cost increases on the project as a whole.”

“In this context, it is astonishing that the Government have announced a further 37% cut to the DfT budget - taking the cut in day-to-day spending at the Department to 70% since 2010. This despite warnings from the top Parliamentary committee and the National Audit Office that the shortage of skilled staff after the 2010 Spending Review was affecting their ability to deliver on major projects.

“In light of this and following Ministers’ initial broken promises over rail electrification and ongoing problems at Network Rail, people across Sheffield and Yorkshire have a right to ask how much longer they’ll be waiting for the rail investment which was supposed to kick-start the Northern Powerhouse project.”

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