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A rail investment plan to lift North & Mids out of recession

Graham Nalty Derby DE24
01 June 2020
 

The UK economy has taken a big hit from Covid-19. The economy will need to be rebuilt and people who have become unemployed will need to find new jobs. 

Building new transport infrastructure that adds value to the overall transport provision is a highly effective way to increase employment and stimulate local economies. So I very much welcome the Greengauge 21 report Revisiting High Speed North as an excellent route map upon which to proceed (‘East-west rail tunnel touted to ease Gtr Manchester’s rail capacity crunch’ LTT 15 May). 

The pace of investment in rail infrastructure and electrification needs a big step change upwards. Cities are the instruments of economic growth. They need to play a much bigger role in defining their ambitions for new transport infrastructure and transport services. 

I have to applaud Greengauge 21 for basing its plans on using Manchester Piccadilly rather than Victoria for a tunnel in deference to Manchester's wishes.

Cities are capable of allocating land for expansion of rail stations to meet future demand. Their businesses want to attract employees, shoppers and theatre-goers from a wide area and this will be best achieved with a strong voice on service options.

Whilst there needs to be an overall long-term strategy for rail expansion in the north of England, work does need to start now in relieving the worst bottlenecks because these are so urgent. This strategy needs to be applied in stages with each stage delivering obvious transport benefits.

Greengauge 21 offer many possible solutions, which all have great merit. But this should not close the door to other ideas. My own thoughts include:

  1. Would the proposed east-west inter-city tunnel route relieve enough of the Castlefield corridor congestion or would a ‘Thameslink’-type north-south tunnel also be required to meet future demand?
  2. What provision can be made for connecting Liverpool Airport to Merseyrail and to the inter-city network?
  3. Can a direct connection between Bradford’s two stations be built quickly as an early win?
  4. How quickly can a grade-separated junction be built at Crewe to permit direct trains from Stoke-on- Trent to Liverpool and Chester?
  5. From my own business travel experience, rail journey times between the East Midlands and the North West are very slow. Can the Derby to Stoke line be upgraded for 125 mph running and sub-30 minutes journeys?
  6. Can the route between Stoke and Crewe be upgraded to avoid the slow running through Kidsgrove?
  7. What can be done to deliver direct and fast rail services between Nottingham and York / Hull and Newcastle?
  8. How best can direct rail services be provided between Manchester Airport and Leicester / Derby / Nottingham?

 
 
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