News: Northern England Strategic Transport Plan proposes new rail links between major cities

Rail Journal 2nd February 2018  ” … Northern England has an extensive rail network with around 500 stations, but with poor journey times and inadequate rolling stock in many areas, rail has a market share of just 3.7%. Improvements to existing rail infrastructure are currently being implemented as part of Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project, which seeks to deliver journey time, capacity, and reliability benefits. Key projects include the North West electrification programme, Manchester’s Ordsall Curve, which opened in December 2017, and the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade.

TfN says it is seeking a firm commitment from the government to deliver the latter project, which has fallen foul of cost overruns in Network Rail’s 2015-2019 enhancement programme, with the aim of addressing overcrowding and meeting short-term demand for more capacity. Alongside infrastructure improvements, the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises are investing in new rolling stock to enable the operation of longer and more frequent trains while improving the onboard experience for passengers and enabling the withdrawal of the life-expired Pacer DMU fleet. Urban rail fleets are also being renewed. Liverpool is investing £460m in 52 new EMUs for the Merseyrail network, while the government has allocated £337m to fund the replacement of the train fleet on the Tyne & Wear Metro network in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.

… Alongside its corridors proposals, TfN outlines its emerging vision for NPR, as a “rapid, reliable, and resilient” rail network connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle with a combination of new and upgraded infrastructure. NPR would bring more than 1.3 million people within an hour of four or more major northern cities, compared with less than 10,000 people today.

NPR will include:

  • a new line linking Liverpool and Warrington with the High Speed 2 (HS2) Manchester Spur
  • capacity at Manchester Piccadilly for around eight through services per hour
  • a new Trans-Pennine line connecting Manchester and Leeds via Bradford
  • significant upgrades along the corridor of the existing Hope Valley Line from Sheffield to Manchester via Stockport
  • Leeds – Sheffield delivered through HS2 Phase 2B and upgrading the route from Sheffield
  • Leeds – Newcastle via the HS2 junction and upgrades to the East Coast Main Line, and
  • significant upgrading of the existing Leeds – Selby – Hull and Sheffield – Doncaster – Hull lines.

NPR could reduce the Liverpool Lime Street – Manchester Piccadilly journey time from around 50 minutes to 28 minutes, while Sheffield – Leeds could be cut from 41 minutes to 26 minutes. Manchester – Leeds journey times would be “no more than 30 minutes” including a stop at Bradford, compared with 49 minutes for the fastest services today.

TfN says further work is underway to develop options and a business case for a new line or significant upgrades between Manchester and Sheffield, and to refine options for the overall network. TfN and the Department for Transport (DfT) will complete a strategic outline business case for NPR by the end of this year, which would enable design work to begin on each corridor.

Read more here.