To support a faster, greener and more reliable rail network in the North of England and Midlands, the Department of Transport has outlined a major £401m investment package, including £317m for the Transpennine Route Upgrade.
The upgrade will see train journeys become faster and more convenient for passengers between York, Leeds and Manchester, increasing capacity on the line and supporting further green efforts across the railway.
Completion of the Transpennine Route Upgrade will also deliver electrification and upgrades between York and Church Fenton.
The funding package was set out by Transport Ministers Chris Heaton-Harris and Andrew Stephenson and aim to build on existing investments to improve rail connectivity, journey speeds and capacity across the national network; with particular focus on supporting the levelling up of northern and Midlands routes.
The announcement coincided with the completion of the first phase of £1.5bn Midland Main Line upgrade, including the introduction of new electric trains.
Freight operators are also set to benefit from the wider £401m package of funding, with £69m earmarked to support improvements to increase freight capacity on the lines between the Port of Southampton and the Midlands.
Investment into freight services typically leads to a boost to the wider regional economy, as a report by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) recently highlighted.
A further £15m of investment has been outlined from the New Stations Fund to build new stations at Marsh Barton in Exeter and White Rose and Thorpe Park in Leeds, connecting communities, supporting retail growth, improving employment and leisure access and encouraging greener travel choices.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Modernising and upgrading our vital transport links is critical to levelling up every part of this country, unleashing our economy and spreading opportunity as we build back better.
“Following closely after our reforms to deliver a modern, green and innovative railway that meets the needs of the nation, this package of £401m investment will help deliver reliable, punctual services that passengers across the UK can count on.”
Decarbonisation across the rail network has been a key focus in recent years, with the UK’s presidency over the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November this year adding further emphasis. The new electric trains introduced on the Midlands Main Line will see carbon emission cut by 77% on the route between Corby and London St Pancras.
Chris Heaton-Harris added: “The scale of today’s investment demonstrates our commitment to delivering more punctual, greener and comfortable services right across the country.
“From the vital Transpennine and Midland Main Line upgrades, new stations giving communities in Yorkshire and the South West rail connections for the first time, and a shot in the arm for freight operators, we’re building a brighter future for the railways.”
Reflecting on the announcement, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “The Railway Industry Association and our members will welcome the Government’s confirmation of further electrification work on the Transpennine route, and look forward to the green light for electrification of the whole route.
“With the completion of electrification on the Midland Main line – delivered to time and budget – a consistent profile of further electrification work will help retain the skills, expertise and capabilities needed in the industry, to build the world-class railway network the country needs as we move on from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We hope the announcement today is the start of an extensive programme to electrify the UK’s railway lines around the country.
“As RIA’s Rail Decarbonisation 2021 campaign highlights, a rolling programme of cost-effective electrification – coupled with Government support and fleet orders for hydrogen and battery trains – will be essential if the UK is to hit its goals of decarbonising rail by 2040 and securing Net Zero by 2050.
“RIA also welcomes investment in new stations in the South West and increasing the capacity on lines as part of Oxford Phase 2 project. By improving connectivity for communities across the country, and continuing to enhance the rail network with intensified electrification for example, UK rail really can support the Government’s ‘build back better’ agenda, boosting jobs, investment and economic growth for UK plc, at this critical time.”
RTM is bringing together the key decision makers within rail from across the North of England for TCR North, on November 11, 2021 in Manchester. Register to attend here.