Campaigners urge backtrack on axed electric rail projects

A group of politicians, campaigners and community groups have urged Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to reverse the scrapping of railway electrification.

More than 80 individuals and organisations signed an open letter to the minister, hailing the environmental and economic benefits of electrifying rail lines.

Projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North were axed or downgraded in July.

The letter, published in The Times, said diesel trains "pollute our air, damage our health and are bad for the environment".

Electrification would boost growth outside of the South East and help reduce climate change, the letter added.

It stated: "The Government talks about ' rebalancing the economy' and the ' Northern Powerhouse' but continues to under-invest in transport infrastructure outside of London and the South East."

The signatories include 17 Labour MPs, Green MP Caroline Lucas, environmental organisations, trade unions, rail user groups and local councillors.

Organised by 10:10 Climate Action and the Campaign for Better Transport, the letter's publication coincides with a day of action on one of the affected lines.

Campaigners will relay a giant electric plug on the Midland Mainline from London to Sheffield collecting names for a petition backing electrification.

Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action, said: "Electric trains are a no-brainer. They're better for the climate, less polluting and better for passengers than diesel alternatives.

"By slamming the brakes on rail electrification, we risk going into reverse in phasing out dirty diesel transport.

"Everyone knows electric transport is the future, so let's not be the last ones left stuck with a new fleet of yesterday's trains."

More than 86,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Government to boost east-west rail services in northern England.

Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: " The Government must re-examine its decision to scrap rail electrification projects as a matter of urgency.

"Electric trains are better for the environment, the economy and passengers.

"If people in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales are to believe the Government when it says it wants to 're-balance the economy', it must now put its money where its mouth is and give people the modern electric trains they deserve."

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