It is true to say that when the East Coast Mainline (ECML) was electrified in the days of British Rail the work was ‘done on the cheap’.

During 1976 and 1991 when the ECML was electrified, British Rail had to work within a tight budget and hence the infrastructure was not as robust as it could have been – see this article by as an example of what I mean.

Of course back then British Rail operated a policy of “managed decline” and nobody could have predicted how rail travel would have doubled in the years leading up to the pandemic.

Over the years the southern section of the ECML has received a power boost, but the latter has not yet been applied to much of the 120 miles between Newcastle and Edinburgh.

As reported by The Scotsman the problem affects a 70 mile stretch between Longniddry and East Lothian.

It means the power supply cannot cope with the number of new operators.

Network Rail says it will be at least another two years before power supply can be upgraded.

Therefore TransPennine Express (TPE), is obliged to operate its bi-mode Nova 1 trains using diesel power, even though the line is fully electrified.

Other ECML operators on this line either use diesel (Cross Country) or electric (LNER and Lumo).

However some LNER services are operated by bi-mode sets, which recently came in handy when ECML disruption caused Lumo to suspend operations.

Lumo suffers East Coast Mainline disruption

Quoted by The Scotsman a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Scotland said the situation was “farcical”, when “electricity is flowing through the cables just a few feet above the trains”.

TPE is hoping to make software adjustments which would enable them to operate with electric power.

However this would result in slightly longer journey times, presumably because less power would be drawn. But there is no guarantee the adjustments would succeed.

The ECML has become our most important long distance route – a far cry from the dark days of the Beeching era when it was mooted for a downgrade or even closure (between Newcastle and Edinburgh).