Transport for the North has calling for changes to the major rail investment proposals in the region to ensure they support rather than contradict one another.
The sub-national transport body sets out its initial thinking on investment priorities in a submission to the National Infrastructure Commission’s call for evidence on the rail priorities for the Midlands and the North (LTT 17 Apr). The NIC’s final report will inform the Government’s rail plan for these areas.
TfN will submit more evidence to the NIC this summer. Chief executive Barry White said this week: “In the summer we will bring forward an initial sequencing of work built around the emerging evidence from Northern Powerhouse Rail and agree a set of priorities with Midlands Connect for connecting the key economic centres in both regions.”
TfN’s submission to the NIC this month states: “The outcome needs to be a continuous pipeline of investment from now to 2040, starting immediately with focus on Manchester and Leeds hubs.”
TfN says the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU), Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and HS2 are all currently being treated as separate programmes, and synergies are being missed.
“For example, the HS2 routes into Leeds and Manchester have been designed around terminating stations, which presents significant operational challenges for NPR and TRU, which focus mainly on through services.”
It voices frustration with the different governance structures for the projects. TfN and the DfT are co-clients for NPR but the DfT has sole responsibility for HS2 and TRU. On these, TfN is merely a stakeholder.
TRU will upgrade the Manchester to York line via Huddersfield and Leeds and represents the “largest intervention within the next five year period”, says TfN.
It says the TRU project could be improved with full rather than partial electrification, and gauge clearance to create an east-west corridor for container movements on conventional wagons to/from ports such as Liverpool and Immingham.
Discussing other short-term priorities, TfN says the Castlefield corridor in Manchester (Deansgate to Piccadilly) “is the key place to begin unlocking growth potential across the North”.
“Other significant bottlenecks also need to be addressed urgently, including at Leeds, the East Coast Main Line route to Newcastle and the North East, the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe, the East Lancashire line, Stockport, and in the Sheffield City Region.”
Discussing NPR and HS2, TfN says: “NPR and HS2 should be treated as equally important, rather than NPR being designed around a fixed HS2 scheme.
“There is a particular issue at Manchester Piccadilly, with the station designed to focus on the needs of HS2, rather than the combined needs of HS2 and NPR.” It wants the Government to consider a new underground station at Piccadilly.
TfN emphasises the importance of currently unfunded parts of the HS2 project, such as the Manchester Airport station and touchpoints between HS2 and the conventional network, including at Crewe North.
Boris Johnson has promised a new railway line between Manchester and Leeds, which would be an integral part of NPR. But TfN says the whole NPR programme to better connect the North’s cities must be delivered.
The strategic outline business case for NPR was submitted to the Government last March. This is being refined to inform a strategic outline case in 2021, which will set out a preferred network.
TfN says that, as evidence on NPR begins to emerge over the summer, it will provide the NIC with a “blueprint for a single, integrated pipeline of rail investment across the North”. This will focus on the following principles:
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