Network Rail outlines £530m vision

Politicians and regeneration bosses have welcomed proposals for a £530m package of investment in the North by Network Rail.

The Northern Hub study identifies action that needs to be taken to keep pace with the growing population and economy of the major Northern cities and town.

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Network Rail's plans would produce a 40% increase in trains each day (700 additional services) across the region and capacity for a further 3.5m passengers a year.

Key benefits for passengers in the region, if delivered, could include:

  • Trains every 15 minutes from Liverpool to Manchester and Yorkshire
  • Faster journeys between Liverpool and Manchester (33 mins)
  • More frequent services from Liverpool South Parkway, Widnes and Birchwood to Liverpool and Manchester
  • Direct services from Chester to Manchester Airport
  • A doubling of trains between Knutsford and Manchester and an extra service from Wilmslow to Manchester Airport
  • Faster services between Liverpool, Chester, Manchester and Manchester Airport and Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, and the North East
  • New inter-regional/trans Pennine services, allowing six trains every hour to pass between Leeds and Manchester with journey times as quick as 43 minutes
  • Major restoration and improvements to Manchester Victoria. The station would become a major interchange for the north with vastly improved facilities for passengers
  • Increasing capacity for freight by doubling the number of paths from the west coast main line to Trafford Park, and making it possible for larger containers to move across the network

Neil Scales, chief executive of Merseytravel, said: "We welcome the publication of the report into improving the rail network around Manchester and the opportunity to increase the number of express trains and the journey time between the two cities.

"Alongside the electrification of the main line via St Helens Junction, and the recent announcements on further electrification means that there is a real opportunity to make a step change in the rail network for the north of England. Merseytravel looks forward to working with the rail industry on making these plans a reality."

Roger Jones, campaign director of the North West Rail Campaign, whose members include Merseytravel, Manchester Airport and the North West Development Agency, said: "It's a great day for the campaign as this has been a major objective to ensure that investment is delivered across the network. The next stage for Network Rail and all of the partners involved in the campaign is to ensure that Government ensures that the changes detailed today are delivered in full."

The solutions outlined today include two additional through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly station, an additional platform at Manchester Airport, the refurbishment of Manchester Victoria Station and provision for the 'Ordsall Chord' which will link Piccadilly & Victoria Stations. This will result in improved rail services right across the North of England including the major cities of Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester. The North will be able to foster enhanced freight capacity and additional facilities to allow fast trains to overtake stopping services.

Network Rail will continue to work with the rail industry and stakeholders to develop the plan, and aims to win funding for these proposals to be implemented from 2014.

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About time too! This is still all speculative, but ut must happen. It is vital not just for regeneration and connectivity, but as part of the lifestyle changes needed to tackle climate change and peak oil. Everything proposes looks necessary, but there are omissions. One is the Burscough Curve, which would enable Southport to have a direct connection to Preston, the WCML and stations on the Preston-Burnley – Leeds – York route.Another omission is to reconnect Colne to Skipton. THis si potentially a very important strategic freight route from the NE to Manchester, Liverpool etc. It would also aid the regeneration of Pendle, link the NW with Skiptonand the Dales, and link Skipton to Manchester, Man Airport, Merseyside and Blackpool. Finally, lets cut Lake District traffic by reopening Penrith to Keswick.

By Nina Smith

The proposed Chester to Manchester Airport link is very good news indeed, providing that the train operating companies understand that planes depart from Manchester very early in the morning, and arrive late at night. There is no public transport at all from Chester to Manchester Airport and North Wales residents, as well as Cestrians, will surely welcome this service. The travelling time from Chester to Manchester needs to be reduced and when this happens, more people will use the train for this journey.

By R Roberts