Manchester investments hints at full Transpennine approval in Integrated Rail Plan

Posted on 29 January 2021

​Major rail improvements around Greater Manchester are set to be undertaken this summer under a 16 day blockade but the Network Rail announcement suggests that the full Transpennine Route Upgrade (TPU) may soon be approved. The Integrated Rail Plan is expected to be published next month and the work at Greater Manchester being classed as “supporting the delivery of TPU” has created speculation that the plan will approve the full TPU. Improvements promised under the full TPU include electrification, digital signalling and a doubling of the number of tracks on the most congested sections around Leeds and Huddersfield, allowing faster trains to overtake slower ones.

Transport minister Andrew Stephenson said: “The Transpennine Upgrade is at the heart of our commitment to improve rail journeys for passengers across the North, focused on significantly improving reliability and punctuality.” Under the plans announced this week, the work on the rail line between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale/Stalybridge stations will be delivered in the first two weeks of August. The work forms part of TRU’s wider goal to deliver sought-after improvements along the full 121km Transpennine route - stretching from York to Manchester, via Leeds and Huddersfield.

The upgrade includes track renewal and bridge upgrades. According to Network Rail, the work “is the first step to enable wider improvements that are expected to bring much needed benefits to passengers”. Network Rail director for the Transpennine Route Upgrade programme Neil Holm said: “The Transpennine Route Upgrade is a transformative, long-term project supporting economic growth in the North at a vital time and delivering real benefits for passengers and communities. “A project of this size and scale means there will be times when we have to close the railway - and the 16-day closure this summer in Greater Manchester signifies one of these moments. However, working alongside train operators, we are committed to keeping passengers on a train as often as we possibly can, moving on time and in comfort. We are confident that the long-term legacy of the project will be worth the shorter-term inconvenience of the disruption.”

Despite the 16-day closure, direct train travel between Manchester and Leeds will still be possible but with trains departing/arriving via Manchester Piccadilly instead of Manchester Victoria station. Passengers wishing to travel between Yorkshire to Manchester Airport/Liverpool will be able to do so but with a change of trains at Manchester Piccadilly. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham welcomed the announcement for the August upgrade. “This rail route forms a vital link across the North, connecting cities and ports and supporting the regional and national economy,” he said. “Leaders from across the North have been calling for improved connectivity for many years through High Speed Rail, Northern Powerhouse Rail and improved Transpennine connections. We welcome this work which should be seen as just the start of a transformational investment in rail across the North, supporting the government’s levelling up agenda and ensuring we build back better from the pandemic.”

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