Chris Grayling NTS 2019

Grayling: No solution to Oxford Road woes

Charlie Schouten

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said there is no “simple, quick, non-disruptive solution” to improving journeys on one of the most congested rail routes in and out of Manchester, arguing the cost of the original scheme was “way out of kilter”.

Plans to extend platforms at Oxford Road station have been mooted for a number of years, and were designed to take advantage of the completion of the Ordsall Chord to allow more frequent trains between Piccadilly, Victoria, and beyond.

As of last year, Network Rail said works to Oxford Road were still “awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State”.

At Place North West’s Northern Transport Summit in Manchester, Grayling said the Government, Network Rail, and Transport for the North were “trying to work out what the best thing is to do about that corridor”.

Responding to claims the Government had “its head in the sand” and that delay to the Northern Hub had caused “a direct deterioration of rail services” and “sustained disruption” in Manchester, Grayling insisted the scheme was not cancelled, but said there was no “simple solution”.

He also said the Government was trying to work on a scheme that would minimise “years and years” of disruption” on the route.

“The original cost estimates were way out of kilter, the potential disruption that the project would cause to rail travel through the centre of Manchester is judged by everyone to be enormous, and I’m trying to work out, together with Network Rail [and] Transport for the North, what’s the best way to deal with that corridor.

“It’s absolutely fundamental, I’m well aware of it, but we don’t yet have a simple, quick, non-disruptive solution to it.  It’s not a question of head in the sand; I do not have a simple solution that’s going to deliver quick change on that corridor. It’s going to mean years and years of disruption in Manchester that I don’t want either, so we’re trying to deliver that improvement without causing that.

He said some short-term measures, such as adding longer trains, could be explored.

Grayling also reiterated claims that the North of England receives more transport spending than the South. Figures published in December 2017 by the Infrastructure & Projects Authority suggested the North would receive £1,039 per person, compared to £1,029 per person in the South, between 2017/18 and 2020/21.

However, these were refuted by think tank IPPR North, which said transport spending was 2.6 times higher in London, which is to receive £4,155 per person. This analysis argued the Government had excluded £12bn of Transport for London spending from the figures.

Grayling said: “If you’re taking pure Government spending, the stuff that comes from my department, from the Department for Communities & Local Government, and through other routes, actually at the moment, spending per head is higher in the North than in the South.

“The thing that distorts the figure is London taxes; if you take Crossrail as an example, more than half of that now is being funded by taxation on businesses raised by the Mayor. So, if you count that as public spending, then that’s what distorts the figures.”

He also warned the current track upgrades to routes between Manchester and Leeds were going to be “very disruptive”. The multi-billion-pound project is now under way and is expected to run for several years.

“It is not just tinkering round the edges; this is a reconstruction of the railway line. It’s got to be done in phases because of the sheer disruption involved,” he said.

“It involves building new stations, reshaping the line of the existing tracks, flyovers. It’s often talked about in terms of electrification; it’s a complete reconstruction of a significant part of that line. We’re trying to do it in the most sensitive possible way. It is going to be very disruptive.

“There will be extended periods where the line has to be partially closed for work and trains will have to be diverted around that work, but it is absolutely essential to delivering in the shorter term a proper upgrade to the railway line between Manchester, Leeds, and York.”

Watch the full speech and Q&A with Chris Grayling here

A full write-up of the Northern Transport Summit, including interviews and discussions with the North’s civic and transport leaders, will be published tomorrow.

The Northern Transport Summit was sponsored by Transport for the North, Broadway Malyan, Waterman Group, Lexington Communications, and Winckworth Sherwood.

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Robbing a living that man

By John

Detailed structural design of this scheme was being developed more than 5 years ago with consultants paid and working on it. DfT pulled the plug.

By Useless

Old failing Greyling strikes again. This guy must be one of the worst Ministers there has ever been, everything he touches turns to s**t. You only have to look at how much he cost the probation service in his last role.

By Bob

Half of the money for Crossrail was raised by Tax on Business. So that means a huge proportion of this massive scheme was paid for by denying our other great conurbations the transport they need.Saying there is more investment in the North now,is as ludicrous as it is probably untrue. Even if it is true, that does not excuse continual neglect by this government and every London government going back decades.

By Elephant

Dig a tunnel under Manchester, if its good enough for London…..

By Anonymous

Led by Donkeys.
We all know what needs doing here! Finish the Northern Hub!
Just get on with it and spend the money, the temporary disruption will be worth it in the long term.
What chance have we got with this clown at the helm….

By dave

I suggest Chris Grayling appoints a company thats never worked in the rail industry, give them 2.7 billion then shelve the project.


Removing the hourly freight path from the Deansgate – Piccadilly corridor would help as these intermodal trains are very long and take a while to get through. Does anyone have any ideas of where to send them? If there was a path on the CLC westwards through Warrington, they would have to go to Liverpool South Parkway and run round. A tunnel under the Ship Canal to join up with the Weaste branch, then via Earlestown on to the WCML?

By Geoff Kerr

The Ordsall Chord started at 82 million and is now at 250 million and counting and your lucky to see two small trains an hour on it . The extra platforms at Piccadilly should have been done first but Network Rail were trying to be to sneaky and did it the other way round to set a 5m president and save paying compensation to residents along Whitworth St . The Secretary of State is right to hold back , Network Rail can’t be trusted to deliver something this important.

By barny

That is the outcome of taking a rail NETWORK and closing diversionary routes (no business case; not commercially profitable): northern loop line from Piccadilly to Victoria, closed; line from Piccadilly to Barnsley (and Leeds) closed, line from Nelson to Colne (Bradford/York/Leeds), closed; diversionary route from Stalybridge to Diggle (to Huddersfield), closed; Oops! London civil servants forgot to close the Calder Dale line. Apart from that, a single line connects two regions biggers than most countries! Oxbridge smarty pants in Whitehall decided. So, take back control! And Oxford St station problem? Build a tunnel from Piccadilly forking north and south under Victoria. No money? Borrow and invest. It’s a revolutionary idea called – CAPITALISM!

By James Yates

Short Term Planning + Under Investment = Long Term Failure…

Long Term Failure + Chris Grayling Management = Absolute Catastrophe

By Time for Change

The Tories never have and never will be interested in the North.

By Anonymous

Can’t believe a single thing this man says anymore his record is disgraceful. Proposals to deal with this section of line were being drawn up years ago weren’t they?
There was no easy solution to crossrail either but that didn’t stop the government chucking money at it. This rail corridor has been broken for years and it is this government that has failed to improve it.

By Adam Ash

We have not had a British government for years in this country. We have just had one Londoncentric administration after another who have totally abandoned the English regions. This is stark evidence of yet another betrayal and Chris Grayling is laughing at us.It isn’t just the North, it is everywhere not in the London orbit.

By Elephant

How is this man given a platform to talk in the North? Crossrail built with an open chequebook, while Oxford Road symptomatic of a 3rd class rail system in this region. And we seem to be appeased by the Northern Powerhouse that carries little weight and financial clout in the real world. Per head spend on infrastructure in the North West compared to London is pitiful.

By Mark Gilbertson

We all need to wake up in the North to what Whitehall’s game is. Liverpool Central – busiest underground station outside of London: with no accessible ticket machines and just one lift. Lime Street – doesn’t even have an ATM at the moment. Meanwhile in the bubble of London….

By LEighteen

Why should the Tories bother with the North? Nobody in the North votes for them.If the Tories transformed Manchester and Liverpool the people would still vote for Labour, so why would they waste their time and money?

By Jon Anderson

Would trust Christopher to know how to connect to a WiFi network – Don’t let the lad near any sort of transport network anymore, he’s a dunce.

By Daveboi

So many of the suggestions in the comments here are far more logical and doable than anything Grayling has suggested. He says there is no easy solution that minimises disruption. There is. It’s called a tunnel. Yes it’s expensive, but it is affordable for the 2nd city in the world’s 5th largest economy. It’s affordable in most other cities in the developed world of a similar size to Greater Manchester or in fact half the size of Greater Manchester. It’s just that Grayling doesn’t want to spend the money here. No problems giving it to DUP to bribe for votes though.


Jon Anderson – The Tories are currently the governing power in this country and as such should think NATIONALLY not REGIONALLY – no region should be given priority over any other – any money available to government should be shared throughout the country – we do pay our taxes in the North so should expect some recompense!

By JGW905

Jon Anderson, we had a Labour government for thirteen years, which sanctioned Crossrail. Plus London is now a majority Labour city with half the shadow cabinet holding London seats.Mrs. Thatcher used to hold both Bury seats, where was the investment then?

By Elephant

“It’s going to mean years and years of disruption in Manchester that I don’t want either, so we’re trying to deliver that improvement without causing that.”

The solution – avoid any solution for another decade and give them years and years of disruption anyway? The man is a quack.

By Daveboi

Thatchers government was a centre right government, now we have a centre at times centre left government and a Labour Party led by a far left candidate. There’s no real American style right wing party anymore.

By Fran

It looks like I’m the only one who thinks what he says is entirely sensible.

That said, I can’t envisage a scenario where any upgrades to the Piccadilly-Oxford Road corridor and/or tram-trains will solve the congestion. I would like to see his backing for new East-West underground platforms.

By Superhans

PLACE NORTH WEST – The scheme is not just about “extending the platforms at Oxford Road” – it’s about QUADRUPLING the track from Castlefield Junction west of Deansgate station and Piccadilly, with 2 (TWO) extra platforms alongside Platform 14 at Piccadilly! No mean construction job, but one that should have been done before the Ordsall Curve, which will never be used to full capacity until the full scheme is implemented.

By Anonymous

Oxford Road is one thing, Salford Crescent is another. Congestion caused by there only being two platforms, but with trains from Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road all passing through is one of the biggest problems on our rail network. Until that bottleneck is sorted out I can’t see anything making much of a difference!

By Disgruntled Commuter

He’d soon sort it if it was Oxford Street in that London !

By Tha' Knows

There is an assumption by these Southern politicians that the North West is like East Anglia or the South West. They have no concept of how many people live here. There are as many people working at Manchester airport as live in Falmouth, Cornwall’s largest town. These levels of investment are absolutely useless for the needs of the people living in these communities. Two billion pounds linking Leeds with Manchester is peanuts. It needs to be ten times that to make up the shortfall of years of neglect. The extension to the Trafford Centre by Metrolink is costing half a billion. Two billion pounds won’t even do up Leeds and Manchester Piccadilly stations to the standard expected of a 21st Century industrial nation.

By Elephant

Keep Greyling out of the north!!

By Concerned

What he means is three are solutions out there but we ain’t going to invest in them

By Chris h

Regarding goth comparative per head spend, Grayling is being completely disingenuous. Not only is he excluding TfL’s budget for London but he’s including funding for potholes, in other words the day to day maintenance funding that all authorities receive through the DCLG. This is NOT investment.

By Grayling watch

Regarding the comparative per head spend, Grayling is being completely disingenuous. Not only is he excluding TfL’s budget for London but he’s including funding for potholes, in other words the day to day maintenance funding that all authorities receive through the DCLG. This is NOT investment.

In fact every time you hear the government trot out that mystical £13bn figure, think potholes. Potholes and an upgrade to the A1. Typical smoke and mirrors from our overlords in Westminster and Whitehall.

By Grayling watch

One of the definitions of abuse today is neglect. By using that premise, this government is abusing the people of this region through this neglect. This lack of investment is why we have the worst levels of poverty, health, life expectation and every other aspect of daily living. I would go as far as to say that since and including Thatcher we have been denied our fundamental human rights. If eight of the ten poorest regions in Northern Europe are in the UK, with the richest region also being in the UK, you do not need to be Carole Vorderman to work out what Westminster has done to this country.

By Elephant