In 2015, a statutory body called Transport for the North (TfN) established a mission to transform the Northern economy through sustainable transport. One of its key projects is the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) network, which proposes a high-speed rail network that aims to improve connectivity between major cities in the North of England.
TfN spent months planning and consulting with stakeholders to reach the final stages of deciding on its preferred NPR network. In November 2022, the TfN board initially approved the preferred network and its phasing plan. The proposed network will span from Liverpool to Hull, Sheffield, and the North East, and construction is expected to begin in 2024/5. One of the NPR's key features is its full integration with HS2, enabling seamless connectivity between the two networks.
The NPR network proposal includes building a new line from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington, constructing a new line from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford, significantly upgrading and improving journey times on the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield, connecting Sheffield to HS2 and then on to Leeds, significantly upgrading and electrifying the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull, and significantly upgrading the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle (via York and Darlington) and restoring the Leamside line. These improvements will radically improve connectivity between the six main economic centres in the North and Manchester International Airport.
TfN is currently reviewing the latest cost and benefits data for the proposed NPR network and will make a final decision at the upcoming board meeting in March 2023. If approved, the final network will be included in the progressing business case, which will also be considered at the March meeting. Once finalised, TfN will submit the business case to the government for funding.
TfN is actively developing wider schemes for the NPR network, and work has already begun on early station development on the Leeds to Sheffield corridor. Proposed new stations at Barnsley Dearne Valley and Rotherham Midland Mainline stations are already under construction, with the aim of opening them by late 2023 or early 2024. This is expected to provide a significant economic boost to the Barnsley and Rotherham areas. Furthermore, TfN is conducting ground investigation surveys between Leeds and Hull to determine the stability and composition of the ground for upgrade work. The survey findings will help TfN to determine the amount of civil engineering work required to complete the upgrades, as well as the overall cost. This will enable TfN to mitigate risks and keep the project on schedule.
In conclusion, the Northern Powerhouse Rail project represents a significant investment in the future of the North of England. The proposed network will significantly improve connectivity, creating economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for residents. TfN is working diligently to ensure that the project stays on schedule and delivers to the highest standards. We eagerly anticipate the project's fruition in the coming years.