Posted 15th December 2011 | 1 Comment

New Transpennine MD inherits electrification muddle

A NEW managing director has been appointed to lead First TransPennine Express, but he'll inherit growing confusion about how much of his network is set to be electrified, following the Chancellor's autumn statement.

FPE engineering director Nick Donovan has been promoted to succeed Vernon Barker, who was appointed as md of First Group’s Rail Division in September.

Mr Donovan, 48, joined the company when its franchise began in 2004, as new trains project director. He was responsible for introducing the new fleet of Siemens-built Class 185 diesel units which now provide the backbone of TPE's services.

He said: "I am delighted to be given this opportunity to take on the role and to build on the tremendous successes that have been achieved.

"FTPE has always been a company that has innovated and we are entering a really exciting period. There are a range of infrastructure projects upcoming and we are working closely with the Government to increase capacity and provide more carriages by 2014."

It is, however, infrastructure projects which may give Mr Donovan a headache, as confusion continues over how much of the TPE network is to be electrified.

The Treasury's National Infrastructure Plan, which was published alongside the Chancellor's autumn statement at the end of November, variously describes the extent of newly proposed electrification as 'Manchester to Leeds', 'Transpennine Express', and 'North Trans Pennine'.

In fact, North Transpennine is a description used by TPE to indicate its services between Newcastle or Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport, Scarborough to Liverpool Lime Street and Hull to Manchester Piccadilly.

If only Manchester to Leeds were to be electrified, there would still be a critical gap from east of Leeds to Colton Junction, on the East Coast Main Line south of York, making through electrified services from the north east to Manchester impossible.

But although various industry sources have claimed that the Leeds-York section was included, this has not been confirmed by Network Rail.

Its own recently-published Initial Industry Plan proposed electrification from Guide Bridge West Junction (east of Manchester) to Copley Hill East Junction via Huddersfield and also Neville West Junction (east of Leeds) to Colton Junction.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We believe this full scheme represents the best outcome and will continue to make the case to government."

This is not the only source of railway confusion at the moment. A press release promising up to £371 million of investment in two new Nottingham tram lines was issued yesterday by the DfT and then withdrawn again, without comment. Railnews has been told that no contract has actually been signed, and that the release was published by mistake.

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  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    Electrification - post 2014 ... FirstGroup's TPE franchise - expires 2014... end of muddle.... That said, Nick is a decent manager who, unlike many, has a good knowledge of his company beyond the head office's front door.