A £1bn plus investment in the North West rail infrastructure, providing new tracks and electrification to meet the growing demand for rail transport in the North West.
Network Rail today committed to continuing the biggest investment in infrastructure since the Victorian era, reducing costs and delivering more passengers on time than ever before – but also warned that tough choices need to be made if the industry is to meet these competing challenges and respond to ever rising demand from passengers.
Network Rail’s strategic business plan, which has been submitted to the Office of Rail Regulation, sets out proposals which will help drive Britain’s economy and make its railway as efficient as the best in Europe. The strategic business plan covers the period from 2014 to 2019 (known as control period five, or CP5) and includes detailed plans for each of Britain’s ten strategic rail routes.
The London North Western route makes up a quarter of the national rail network and includes the West Coast Main Line, the busiest mixed-use railway line in Europe connecting London with Scotland via the West Midlands and the north-west of England.
To meet the challenge of increasing demand, Network Rail and its industry partners will deliver a programme of electrification, signalling upgrades, new tracks and longer trains over the 2014-19 period to provide the capacity needed to cope with continued demand from passengers. However, even this will not be enough on the busy West Coast Main Line, where the added capacity that HS2 will provide is essential both for the future of the railway and the economic prosperity of the country.
Dyan Crowther, Network Rail’s managing director for the LNW route, said: “Our route plan sets out the investment we are making for the future, with a particular focus on new technology and electrification to help create a bigger, better railway in the North West.
“In just seven years time we will have dramatically improved rail travel between the key towns and cities of the North West, enabling the provision of more trains and more seats to help drive economic growth.
“However, as our route gets busier our challenges get bigger and more complex. Despite these plans, in less than a decade the busiest parts of the West Coast Main Line will be full as passenger numbers will keep on growing. One thing is absolutely clear – when it comes to HS2, the question is not ‘Should it be built?’ but ‘How quickly can it be built?’”
Some of the key projects proposed to improve the railway in the West Midlands include:
- Northern Hub. The Northern Hub will stimulate economic growth by enabling faster, more frequent trains to better connect the region’s towns and cities. Through a series of targeted upgrades scheduled for completion within CP5, the Hub will create space for up to 700 more trains a day, return £4 to the regional economy for every £1 spent and potentially create 20,000-30,000 new jobs.
- North West electrification. A £400 million programme that will enable electric operation of rail services between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool by December 2016. Other benefits include improved services between the North West and Scotland, post electrification of Ardwick depot and the line from Manchester to the West Coast Main Line at Golborne (and later via Bolton and Chorley), TransPennine Express will operate an hourly four-carriage service with high peak services strengthened where possible.
- North TransPennine electrification. A £300 million programme to be completed by December 2018. This will contribute to shorter journey times, provide additional capacity between Manchester and Leeds via Huddersfield and ultimately, enable reduced operating costs.
- These three programmes combined will enable improved capacity, performance and rail services across the North of England.
- Stafford area improvements. A £255 million package of works including line speed improvements between Crewe and Norton Bridge (north of Stafford); resignalling works and the provision of a new freight loop at Stafford; the construction of a new flyover at Norton Bridge, subject to a development consent order with public consultation ongoing. On completion, the works will remove a key bottleneck on the network and provide faster, more frequent services for passengers with improved reliability.
Network Rail’s plans for Britain’s railway will benefit millions of passengers in England, Wales and Scotland. By 2019, the plan set out today will deliver a railway that:
- Moves 225m more passengers per year and carries 355,000 more trains – the highest numbers ever seen on Britain’s railways
- Provides 20% extra morning peak seats into central London and 32% into large regional cities in England and Wales
- Delivers a step change in connectivity between regional centres e.g. 700 more trains a day linking key northern cities and a ten minute reduction in journey time between Manchester and Leeds
- Carries 30% more freight than today
- Maintains record levels of performance, with expected PPM (public performance measure) of 92.5 per cent by the end of CP5
- Is future-proofing critical infrastructure such as 30,000 bridges, embankments and tunnels against the impact of changing weather patterns, including flooding
- Has cut CO2 emissions per passenger by 37% – the equivalent of one million lorries off of our congested roads – and has hundreds of miles more electrified railway
- Is the safest in Europe, reducing risk at level crossings by 8% in CP5
- Continues to modernise antiquated signalling equipment as part of a plan to move away from over 800 signal boxes to 14 major operations centres, allowing us to run more trains closer together, safely and reliably
- Is more efficient, reducing the cost of running Britain’s railways by a further 18% and cutting annual public subsidy to between £2.6bn and £2.9bn in 2019 – down from £4.5bn in 2009 and £7bn in 2004.
Welcoming the investment, Emma Antrobus, Transport Policy Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce said: “We are delighted to see the scale of investment planned for projects in the North West, providing a transformation of rail services for Greater Manchester. In particular, the commitment to the Northern Hub is a great bonus as we have lobbied hard, alongside Network Rail and other partners for the Northern Hub for almost a decade for this project. Rail improvements are vital to supporting the economies of the major cities of the North and it is important to deliver for the short to medium term with the Hub and electrification, as well as having the vision for the long term with the plans for HS2 to address the capacity issues on the WCML.”
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