Views sought on changes to improve Manchester rail services

Manchester Piccadilly station
X The Business Desk

Register for free to receive latest news stories direct to your inbox


A new consultation has been launched today (January 14) on improving the performance of the rail network in and around Manchester which could result in a shake-up of train services throughout the region.

Passengers are being presented with three options which feature increasing levels of change from the pre-COVID service patterns.

The three options affect different routes, and which routes have direct services to Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations, and Manchester Airport.

Option A is for most existing origins and destinations being retained, particularly for Newcastle to Piccadilly and Sheffield to Manchester Airport journeys.

Option B is a variant that maintains airport connectivity for Liverpool and North Wales. The Cleethorpes/Nottingham service via Sheffield to Liverpool is increased to a standard two trains per hour. This means there is no longer a through service from Sheffield to Manchester Airport, a movement which is very operationally challenging at Manchester Piccadilly. Passengers from Warrington Central would also need to change at Piccadilly to access the airport.

Option C makes the most interventions and moves closest to 30-minute frequencies on most of the corridors into Manchester, including services on the Blackburn, Calder Valley, Chorley, Wigan, Buxton, Chester via Warrington Bank Quay, Airport (stopping) and Crewe lines. In timetable Option C, a number of stations gain an improvement in frequency, helping contribute to overall benefits.

The agreed option, scheduled to be introduced in May 2022, will significantly improve overall reliability while maintaining the pre-COVID travel connections for the vast majority of passengers.

Some changes may mean making different choices for travel.

This change is aimed at giving passengers a more reliable service with less risk of knock-on delays, while longer term infrastructure changes are developed that will enable more services to be added in the future in a sustainable way.

Congestion in the region before the pandemic created regular delays to services around Manchester, with knock-on impacts to reliability across the North. While the public are being asked to stay at home, the rail industry is using this opportunity to plan improvements around Manchester ready for when passengers return in much greater numbers.

This work brings together the DfT, Transport for the North, Network Rail and the train operators, Northern and TransPennine Express.

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “We are putting the power to improve Manchester’s rail network in the hands of those that use it daily. I urge passengers to use this opportunity to comment on the future of your railway.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “I welcome this consultation and the Government’s focus on this issue. The bottleneck in central Manchester is a problem for the whole of the North – and solving these congestion issues will improve the reliability of rail services for passengers right across the North.”

Liam Robinson, Transport for The North’s Rail North Committee chair, said: “Manchester’s congested rail network has long been the source of delays and frustration for passengers, with knock-on effects for the North’s communities. We urge everyone to take a look and give their view on these proposals.

“Whilst the goal of these short term changes is to reduce delays and increase reliability, it is clear that the work we are doing with Government and the industry on longer-term investment in rail infrastructure is also critically important, alongside changes to services.”