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East-west Northern Powerhouse Rail options revealed

Further details of preliminary options for the budding Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) have been revealed in Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) spring report, ahead of the scheme’s design development stage in 2017.

Options for the NPR network – a rail link connecting the north from east to west – include initial ideas to cut down on journey times and increase capacity between the largest cities and Manchester Airport.

Between Leeds and Manchester and Sheffield and Manchester, TfN’s work has shown it “needs to go further than committed investments” in existing routes to achieve better and more frequent services. Options being looked at include building entirely new lines for the route, or “very significant sections” of new line.

Between Leeds and Newcastle and Leeds and Hull, the TfN report said “substantial work to upgrade the existing line is likely to move us significantly towards the vision”.

Finally, between Manchester, Manchester Airport and Liverpool, there is potential to integrate the HS2 infrastructure, including the option of creating a new line.

NPR mapClick on the image to enlarge it.

While these are all very preliminary ideas, outline feasibility work, including looking at relative costs and benefits, will be completed by autumn this year – paving the way for full assessment of each option before the end of this year.

The scheme, initially called HS3, currently represents a partnership between TfN, the Department for Transport, Network Rail and HS2, although “the most effective partnership arrangements will be determined in 2016-17 in collaboration with the DfT and its agencies”. This team will then “continue scheme development into 2017-18”. A full indicative timeline for 2016-17 can be found here.

Working together, these organisations are looking to make the case for a slice of central government’s £300m Transport Development Fund to accelerate the scheme’s development.

Investment in the NPR is also largely expected to free up capacity for freight growth, potentially taking it off the road network entirely.

On rail schemes in general, the report said: “During 2016, with a contribution from the Transport Development Fund, scheme development could go further. It would allow us by the end of the year to establish a more detailed view of the physical work required to deliver each option within a corridor.

“This includes analysis of the indicative costs and benefits, in order to move towards proposing a preferred option on each corridor. We will continue to integrate our work with the other workstreams, maximising the potential to accommodate ambitious freight growth, serving other significant economic centres and retaining the opportunity to connect the NPR network into local markets.”

The NPR scheme is also likely to feature in the Annual Update of the Northern Transport Strategy in March next year, which is set to present the priorities for the region.

Although the report highlighted ongoing developments to rail in the north, including the upcoming Northern Rail and TransPennine franchises, it reiterated what its bosses said two weeks ago: that achieving the desired rail vision could require new railway lines, major upgrades to existing lines (such as major bypasses and cut-offs) and major work at stations.

In the report’s foreword, TfN’s chair, John Cridland, noted that this required thinking long-term and differently, echoing the remarks from the organisation’s chief executive, David Brown.

“Incremental changes will not deliver the economic gains that the north requires,” Cridland added. “With government, TfN has considered pan-northern connectivity, particularly east-west movement, in new ways and in levels of detail not seen before.”

The report also listed significant upgrade work as major enablers for the northern vision, including electrification, sections of four tracking, and grade separation of key junctions between Leeds and Hull and Leeds and Newcastle.

(Top image: c. Graeme Bickerdike)


Bryan Thompson   08/03/2016 at 06:12

That new line in the plan looks,awfully like Woodhead correcting a wrong that should never have happened.

James Miller   08/03/2016 at 10:18

The TransPennine routes need help now, as I found out last month, when I travelled on the totally inadequate three car Class 185s between Manchester and Huddersfield. If you look at the route between Liverpool and Newcastle a lot of it is electrified, but there is a gap of about forty miles between Leeds and Manchester. Replacing the Class 185s with Class 387s equipped as IPEMUs would enable an immediate increase in capacity and performance. They would use their batteries to bridge the electrification gaps. Over the next few months, there would appear to be a few 387s sitting in sidings due to the Great Western electrification fiasco and a few more will be released by Thameslink as Class 700s arrive. And then there's thodse bought by Porterbrook. So we have the trains and all we need to do, is build the battery packs and train the staff. If battery trains aren't veryNorthern Powerhouse, they could always use KERS, which has been successfully used in Formula One and on buses.

David   08/03/2016 at 16:57

James, the Thameslink cascade plan does not involve any 387s "sitting in sidings". Approximately ten units will be released initially for driver training and a Hayes-Paddington 'pre-Crossrail' shuttle.

Andrew Gwilt   08/03/2016 at 23:56

Just like the East-West railway that is currently being built from Oxford to Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Bedford. With the new extension to Cambridge and to connect with lines to Ipswich, Stansted Airport and Norwich as the new railway line to be built between Bedford and Cambridge.

Peter Mckendrick   10/03/2016 at 21:42

Great idea why not use tunnel machine they used on the London cross rail or the Farnworth tunnel make it alot less expensive should have been done years ago

Jb   05/07/2016 at 13:41

I would like to see added to the map, the re-connection of the 12-mile Skipton to Colne line which would create another, much needed trans-Pennine link, whilst providing local opulations with access to the rail system once more. The cost of providing this must be almost trivial by comparison with the grand but dubious HS3 proposals.

John Burns   08/08/2016 at 16:36

The Victorian rail legacy around Manchester is a mess and stands in the way of a smooth HS3 line. The rail around Manchester needs updating to allow fast full line speed 'through' the city, as the city is between the North West/North Wales and West Yorks and beyond. That is obvious. An west-east tunnel through the city is needed that runs under Victoria. Not a HS2 only branch tunnel to inappropriate Piccadilly, a station facing the wrong way. It needs all Gtr Manchester rail centralized at one large 'through' flagship station - Victoria, with Piccadilly terminal closed down. Terminal stations are an expensive negative legacy of the Victorian era. It has to be put right. Centralizing on one through station gives a number of local crossrail lines through Gtr Manchester. Victoria needs to services HS2 and HS3, so all at one point for ease of connections. Then a 'base' tunnel under the Pennines emerging at Barnsley and branching into the north-south lines to Leeds and Sheffield. TfN has proposed anew line to Liverpool from Manchester which makes sense as the Port of Liverpool throughput is about rapidly rise. It is not difficult to think through and as billions are to be spent the above points should all be addressed. This is the ideal opportunity to get it right and benefit the whole of the North of England. If it is not seized now it will be lost for very long time.

Bob   21/03/2017 at 18:40

Nice to know Doncaster and the other towns in South Yorkshire are getting love, considering we basically made the railway what it is today...

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