£589m investment to kickstart rail transport upgrades in the North

rail transport in the north
© James Copeland

The transport secretary has announced a £589m investment into the TransPennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester to improve rail transport in the North

The establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities, has also been announced.

Improvements will include doubling the most congested section of the route from 2 to 4 tracks, allowing faster trains to overtake slower ones, speeding up journey times and reliability for passengers across the North.

Most of the line will be electrified, and full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity is now being considered as part of an ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ due to report in December.

Also considered in the plan is allowing more freight on the route which would replace thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains.

Work is also underway to tackle the bottlenecks at either end of the route, without which the upgrade’s potential cannot be fulfilled. Leeds station is being resignalled and a new platform is being built. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion.

Northern Powerhouse minister, Grant Shapps, said: “People across the North rightly expect action, progress and ambition and this government is determined to accelerate improvements as we invest billions to level up the region’s infrastructure.

“We are determined to build back better at pace, and this new council will allow us to engage collectively and directly with elected northern leaders to build the vital projects the region is crying out for.”

Working with the Department for Transport

As part of the government’s wider strategy to level up communities and strengthen devolution, the council’s work will engage with DfT staff based in northern cities dedicated to delivering improved rail transport in the North.

This follows the announcement of a range of investments to level-up infrastructure across the North including £20m to deliver infrastructure renewals on the Tyne and Wear Metro, following the announcement of £15m to upgrade Horden, Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, added: “Levelling-up opportunity will be key in our recovery from coronavirus and our long-term success will rely on having world-class infrastructure in all parts of the country. The Transpennine rail upgrade shows we are delivering on our promises to the North.”

The Northern Transport Acceleration Council will hold its first meeting in September and will be made up of mayors and council leaders with the Transport Secretary as chair. It will work closely with the Northern Powerhouse Growth Body to improve outcomes for people and places in the North.

At Budget the chancellor confirmed over £720m investment in local transport across the North through the Transforming Cities Fund.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, commented: “As we look to recover from Covid-19 and build back better, I am ready to work in constructive partnership with the government to get visible transport improvements as quickly as possible.

My top priority is to build a London-style, integrated public transport system in Greater Manchester and I look forward to working with the Secretary of State on making this vision a reality.”

At the end of this year the government will publish the Integrated Rail Plan, specifically focusing on how to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and other rail needs as efficiently as possible for the North.


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