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Network Rail's plans for Manchester

By James Cartwright

With Network Rail due to invest £1bn into their network across the north, a vital part of this process is consultation with the public – both to tell them what is happening and why, and to get their input and feedback.

With Network Rail staff setting up in Piccadilly station every morning this week to chat to passengers about the planned improvements at Manchester’s stations and the track linking them, I went along to see what was happening.

piccadilly station consultation 2

Positioning themselves by the entrance, the committed group of Network Rail-ers were slightly hamstrung by the fact that the vast majority of their targets just wanted to get where they were going as quickly as possible. In the 20 minutes or so I spent with them, the longest conversation with a member of the public lasted all of 20 seconds, with many taking the booklet and offering only the briefest of glances towards the banners set up summarising the project. Such is often the case with public consultations, of course, no matter how much effort is put in!

As one of the few who stopped to have a read, I was approached by one of the spokespeople, Steve Cooper, and talked through the details. Succinct and to the point, he established Manchester as a bottleneck for train travel, recognising the dire need for upgrading rail infrastructure around the city to improve capacity. Along with extending the rail corridor over Whitworth Street West at Oxford Road Station, Network Rail proposes to construct the Ordsall Chord, connecting Manchester’s three main stations properly for the first time, and to install two new platforms at Piccadilly – this will enable more trains to travel through the city centre, and offer faster journey times to exotic cities in the east, such as Newcastle and Hull. Journey times across the north currently leave a lot to be desired and hamper economic growth, which is what these Northern Hub upgrades aim to address.

Cooper has also been explaining to passers-by more about Network Rail’s ongoing project to electrify many lines across the north – a long overdue development – and something that will produce a myriad of benefits, including faster, longer and quieter trains, as well as a reduction in environmental impact.

Upon departing, I was told the crux of the detail would be available in a shop front on Whitworth Street West in the afternoon. Although the location seemed best-suited to those actively seeking it, rather than passers-by, the  consultation event contained a plethora of information and videos featuring artist’s impressions of the construction plans.

whitworth street event 3

Amidst it all, it was explained the work would cause a series of road closures – including constant disruption of Whitworth Street West between Albion Street and Great Marlborough Street, as well as a summer 2017 closure of Oxford Road station.

whitworth street event 2

However, it must be said that with the development described as a ‘golden opportunity’ for the city – any short-term negative effects are massively outweighed by the long term economic boost that improvements to infrastructure can provide.


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