Northern Powerhouse

03.10.19

TCR North 2019: The SIX things we learned from the morning talks

With the morning discussions having come to a close, and the delegates breaking for lunch full of newfound knowledge and exciting plans for the future, we can take a look back at some of the key highlights to have come out of this morning’s talks.

A packed morning agenda full of engaging speakers and fascinating subject matters greeted attendees.

Speakers included key names in rail in the North, including Network Rail’s director for the north of England rail, Anna-Jane Hunter, and Rail Freight Group director general Maggie Simpson. Here’s some of the best bits from this morning:

Kicking off with a little cricket

Perhaps it’s the reason we’ve picked six moments out, but either way one of TransCityRail North’s opening speakers was Chris Nutton – who presented a fascinating talk about rail and improving going forwards, framed around one of the sporting moments of the season; Ben Stokes’ cricket success.

There is a reason too, though, behind the cricket comparisons. Just like the sport, rail is a team sport. TransPennine Express wants to bring together the North’s cities and connect them into the other vital parts of the UK.

Mr Nutton expressed a vision for the future of region, working with our supply chain and Network Rail.

Devolving to become more focused in the supply chain

Following from Mr Nutton, regional delivery director for route services supply chain operations at Network Rail, Julia Territt, took to the stage.

Ms Territt’s message to the audience was clear. Network Rail is targeting a much more focused involvement with their supply chain, courtesy of devolving further. This aim is to stand alongside Network Rail’s 33% SMEs involvement by 2022.

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Putting passengers first

As part of the Arup panel which kicked off soon after, we as an audience heard the detailed insight of Transport Focus’ Ian Wright, Arup’s Andrew Belcham, Anna-Jane Hunter from Network Rail and Tim Wood, from Transport for the North.

There was a clear consensus from all; that passengers and their needs must be on the forefront of rail’s mind with any innovations going forwards.

Arup have taken the approach of designing hand-in-hand with passengers to ensure that their needs are met and decisions are done as close to the end user as possible.

Chris Montgomery: Network Rail gives promising updates on TransPennine Route Upgrade

Speaking to a room filled to the brim of key figures from the North’s rail industry and supply chain, Network Rail major programme director Chris Montgomery outlined the plans the group have for CP6 – including the various investment projects they are in the process of receiving funding for.

In news exciting to both passengers and providers of rail alike, Mr Montgomery explained that for the TransPennine Route Upgrade – which involves upgrading old infrastructure to improve journeys between Manchester, Leeds and York and building through some real challenging terrain – the supply chain was looking at around a £2.3bn spend in this control period.

Network Rail have also already established two very strong alliance partners to assist with the project in both the east and west areas of Leeds.

Works are intended to commence in earnest in 2022, while at Leeds Central the organisation reportedly had a big task ahead, some of which had already begun, as well as major signalling work to begin this winter period.

More exciting news in the pipeline for the North too from Network Rail

News around the TransPennine Route Upgrade wasn’t the only promising infrastructure investment updates Mr Montgomery provided to the panel, either.

He told the attendees: “Wigan to Lostock electrification [is arguably] three years out, while for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the supporting business case should be ready for next year, while actual works on the project likely to begin next control period.”

There was good news for the Cross Manchester and Castlefield Corridor projects too, with Network Rail having reportedly secured funding for. As part of these, Mr Montgomery told the room Network Rail were investigating possible tram-train projects to relieve congestion.

The Castlefield area had been declared congested to ensure that Network Rail is able to secure the investment necessary to reach the next stage of development within the next two years.

Finally, Mr Montgomery issued some brilliant news for the Energy Coast Rail Upgrade – sometimes overlooked among all the other exciting rail investment programmes for the North – with the Network Rail director explaining that there had been positive movements towards quite considerable funding to bring the line up to standard.

The route has been highlighted for improvement as part of necessary connectivity requirements for the new proposed nuclear power station – and although plans have now been stalled on that front, the rail improvements still appear viable at this present time.

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Rail can’t afford to forget freight

In the second leader’s debate, freight was the topic of conversation. With Maggie Simpson, from the Rail Freight Group, the UK Major Ports Group’s Tim Morris, Dan Fell from the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce and PD Ports’ Geoff Lippitt, the debate guests were well-versed to debate the UK and the North’s trade environment and necessary investment needed in it.

Biggest talking point from the leader’s debate was by far the lack of freight inclusion in TransPennine Route Upgrade.

A key point raised by both Ms Simpson and Mr Lippitt was the concern of freight being overlooked in the upgrade – with just the passenger elements being addressed – something Mr Lippitt worried would potentially see any freight investment never done.

Mr Lippitt told the audience: “My worry is if it doesn’t happen now, it may never get done as we aren’t going to redo years’ work.”

However, despite these concerns, there was still real optimism around the penal that – so long as freight received some tangible investment – it could still power up the Northern economy.

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TransCityRail North 2019