TOWNS and cities across Greater Manchester are set to benefit as the Government pledges a multi-million-pound boost to improve rail connections across the region.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today confirmed £589m to kickstart work on the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester alongside the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across towns and cities.
The most congested section of the route will be doubled from two to four tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the region. Most of the line will be electrified, with full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity now under consideration as part of an integrated rail plan due to report in December.
Those improvements would allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle; bring longer and more frequent trains; and create significantly more local capacity along the line.
Improvements to allow more freight on the route, replacing thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains, will also be considered in the plan.
Work is also under way to tackle bottlenecks at either end of the route, without which the upgrade’s potential cannot be fulfilled. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion.
Welcoming the news, the Conservative Greater Manchester mayoral candidate Laura Evans said: “Upgrading our railways is vital for our economy and will boost Greater Manchester’s recovery from the pandemic. Today’s announcement sends a clear message that our Conservative Government is committed to improving transport for our towns and cities.
“I’ll continue to work with Ministers and the Government to make progress, so we can unblock congestion, secure more frequent services that run on time and kickstart work on vital routes to unlock the jobs and investment people we need. “
Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps said:
“People across the North rightly expect action, progress and ambition, and this government is determined to accelerate improvements as we invest billions to level up the region’s infrastructure.
“We are determined to build back better at pace, and this new council will allow us to engage collectively and directly with elected northern leaders to build the vital projects the region is crying out for.”
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said:
“Levelling-up opportunity will be key in our recovery from Coronavirus – and our long-term success will rely on having world-class infrastructure in all parts of the country. The Transpennine rail upgrade shows we are delivering on our promises to the North.”
The Northern Transport Acceleration Council will hold its first meeting in September and will be made up of mayors and council leaders with the Transport Secretary as chairman. It will work closely with the Northern Powerhouse Growth Body to improve outcomes for people and places in the north.
Its establishment and the announcement of funds for upgrade works are the latest in a range of investments the government has put into northern transport.
In March, the DfT took over the running of rail services on the Northern network to deliver vital improvements and ensure that passengers are given the level of service they deserve.
At Budget the Chancellor confirmed over £720m investment in local transport across the North through the Transforming Cities Fund.