Tim Wood TfN

TfN calls for ‘long-term’ Northern Powerhouse Rail contracts

Charlie Schouten

Transport for the North wants its contractor partners to be “on board before design has started” on Northern Powerhouse Rail as it targets construction getting under way in 2024.

TfN’s Northern Powerhouse Rail director Tim Wood said an outline business case for the project, which will see miles of new railway infrastructure installed across the North, would be completed by the end of the year.

Speaking at Place North West’s Northern Transport Summit, Wood said contractor partners for the scheme would be judged on their safety record and their “ability to deliver” within a challenging time frame.

He added that the contractors chosen for NPR needed to be “looking at the plans well before they’re fully designed”, and said the delivery programme would target a reduction in costs of around 20% to 30% compared to typical Network Rail projects.

“We have a plan and a programme – we’re just waiting on Network Rail,” he added. Early interventions across the network are set to include “major touchpoints” where the existing network joins to HS2, particularly around Manchester, Crewe, and Liverpool, while electrification north of Sheffield is also on the agenda.

Two new lines are part of the project at its early stages, with one running from Liverpool via Warrington and Crewe, and another running from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford.

Wood also argued the case that HS2 should be built “from the North downwards to Birmingham”, with works starting in Manchester and running southwards to Crewe and then to Birmingham, rather than the other way round as originally planned by HS2.

Despite reports this week in The Times that the Government was considering cutting back on Transpennine electrification, with Ministers considering the proposals as “poor value for money”, TfN said last week that the Government was “listening” to its plans for upgraded and reinstated railway lines in the region, including the re-assessment of the Skipton to Colne line.

Wood said: “We’ve worked up a document [on NPR] with the Department for Transport that can’t be kicked into the long grass; it’s open, transparent, and collaborative”.

The project, Wood said, would be aiming for a 2024 start, which is when Network Rail’s upcoming control period, CP7, gets underway. Network Rail is currently finalising CP5 and is due to start the five-year CP6 in 2019.

On delivery of NPR, Barry White, chief executive of TfN, said there were “a lot of things we can learn internationally” to get the project built at “break-neck speed”.

“The UK has a unique planning system that slows things down and we have to work within that; but there are excellent examples around the speed of construction, such as in China, that can teach us a lot”.

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