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Northern Powerhouse Rail plans published

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Transport for the North has issued a recommendation that the government commits to Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), a network of new and significantly upgraded rail lines in the North of England, and has published its initial route preferences.

The Northern leaders – elected mayors, council and business leaders – say that securing funding and commitment for the project is a critical component of the government’s desire to ‘level up’ economic performance of the North with the rest of the country.

The proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail network (click for larger version).

Their plans are that construction of the network, which stretches from Liverpool to Hull, Sheffield and the North East, would begin in 2024/5.

As well as improving the conventional rail network, NPR will also link fully with HS2, with shared track, stations and junctions in parts.

Details of the proposed way forward will now be sent to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps. Further discussions are planned January and work is continuing with the Department for Transport on an updated business case, to be submitted in spring 2021.

Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Tim Wood, director of Northern Powerhouse Rail, commented: “This is a significant moment for Northern Powerhouse Rail. We have an initial preferred way forward for a rail network that will deliver thousands of jobs, cut carbon emissions and slash journey times between the North’s towns, cities and beyond.

“With the need to ‘build back better’ following the COVID-19 pandemic, delivery of long-term, job-creating infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail need to be a critical component of the agenda. The preferred network would be transformational for the North’s economy and allow Northern workers access to enhanced opportunities through a wider jobs market.

“We’ll now enter discussions with government and look at ways in which the number of remaining options can be further shortlisted, and delivery accelerated, for the sake of the North’s communities and future.”

In summary, 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.

Transport for the North’s move comes ahead of the government’s much-anticipated Integrated Rail Plan, which will set out long-term investment plans for rail upgrades in the North and is due to be published by the end of this year. It is expected to recommend how investment in major rail projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 Phase 2b and the TransPennine Route Upgrade will be delivered.

Tim Wood explained: “The Integrated Rail Plan is a significant moment to secure a long-term, funded infrastructure pipeline for the North. Transport for the North has been consistent that this should include HS2 and NPR in full and deliver the full ambition to transform the North.”

Transport for the North’s recommendation marks an important step in the process, which has involved shortlisting the options on each corridor to form the next business case. This work will continue into next year.

Transport for the North has also agreed an initial phasing plan for the network, which includes starting construction on schemes from 2024/5 and working at pace towards construction for the new build lines.

The improved rail network is part of Transport for the North’s 30-year Strategic Transport Plan, aimed at securing a sustained pipeline of infrastructure investments to increase economic performance and opportunities in the North.

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