Transport for the North (TfN) is nearing a decision on its preferred Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) network, with the final route to be agreed within weeks.
The TfN board gave initial sign off to the preferred network in November, along with a phasing plan.
TfN director Tim Wood told a Westminster Policy Conference yesterday that the proposals will be given final consideration at this month's board meeting.
“The next step for the board is to review the latest cost and benefits data and reconsider and reach a final agreement on the preferred network,” he said. “This will happen this month at our 18 February board meeting.”
The network spans from Liverpool to Hull, Sheffield and the North East, and would begin construction in 2024/5. It also links fully with HS2, with shared track, stations and junctions in parts.
The proposed NPR network includes:
• A new line to be constructed from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington
• A new line to be constructed from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford
• Significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield
• Connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds
• Significant upgrades and electrification of the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull
• Significant upgrades of the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle (via York and Darlington) and restoration of the Leamside line
Wood said the plans will provide “radically improved connectivity” between the six main economic centres in the North and Manchester International Airport.
Once final agreement has been given by board members the network will be included in the business case, which Wood said is “progressing well” and “on schedule”. The board plans to consider the final version of the business case at its March meeting. Following this, the business case will be submitted to government.
In the meantime, TfN is “moving at pace across wider scheme development”, according to Wood. Early station work has begun on the Leeds to Sheffield corridor, with work progressing on proposed new stations at Barnsley Dearne Valley and Rotherham Midland Mainline stations.
“We want to make sure they’re opening their doors late 2023 early 2024,” Wood said. “So it will help the economic benefit around the Barnsley and Rotherham area.”
TfN is also working with Network to undertake ground investigation surveys between Leeds and Hull with work set to commence at the end of this month and complete in September. Wood explained: “The analysis will help us determine the stability and composition of the ground on which our lines run and upgrade work will take place.
"This in turn will inform the amount of civil engineering work required to complete the work and of course determine the overall cost. So we really want to get early works done so we can determine the cost and mitigate the risks early.”