Government pledges £3.9bn to create more reliable train journeys in the North

New Ravensthorpe Viaduct. Credit: Network Rail.

The Government has unveiled plans to spend another £3.9bn to accelerate the Transpennine Route Upgrade between York, Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester.

The money will speed up work on the Transpennine Route Upgrade to create improved services on the route.

Passengers have been promised a fully-electrified line, accessible stations and more frequent services.

With work underway on the project, the Government says its latest funding pledge means it has invested a total of £6.9bn into the upgrade.

Further funding will be confirmed as the project progresses to support the overall cost of up to £11.5bn.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman, who is meeting with business leaders in Manchester this afternoon to discuss the plan, said: “The Transpennine Route Upgrade represents the first major step in delivering transformed east-west connectivity in the north and I’m pleased to announce this multi-billion pound funding boost to move to the next stage of delivery.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates this Government’s commitment to delivering its Network North plan which will improve journeys, help to level up regions and grow the economy.”

The money confirmed today will be invested in doubling the number of tracks from two to four between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe, allowing faster trains to overtake slower stopping services and freight journeys.

Once complete in the mid-2030s, the upgrade will offer up to eight trains per hour, hundreds of extra seats and cut journey times between Manchester and York by 10 minutes.

The investment will also support digital signalling along the route to allow trains to run closer together, leading to more frequent and reliable services.

It will support TransPennine Express in engaging with manufacturers on options for up to 29 new trains to replace the existing diesel fleet, in addition to new trains for local stopping services operated by Northern, ensuring trains along the line are suited to the modernised tracks.

Reacting to the news, Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The existing line across the Pennines does need significant investment.

“Today marks a positive step forward in this so far decade and half long upgrade project to do just that.

“The benefits of this spending would be maximised by further upgrades north of York so that more than one train an hour from Manchester can reach Darlington and Newcastle, and through electrification to Hull, as these eight trains an hour across the Pennines will practically and rightly need to carry on beyond just Leeds where there is not enough spare capacity to terminate them anyhow.

“I look forward to joining the Rail Minister and fellow business leaders to discuss this development.”

Paul Hirst Co-Head of Transport Sector for law firm Addleshaw Goddard will chair a roundtable discussion with the Minister and fellow business leaders in Manchester this afternoon.

Murison said: “I’ll be raising what we believe at The Northern Powerhouse Partnership are the wider areas of interest where we support the Minister’s efforts to turn promises made by his colleagues in government into tangible delivery.”

Neil Holm, managing director for the Transpennine Route Upgrade, said: “Transpennine Route Upgrade is well underway with building the infrastructure that bring passengers more frequent, faster, greener trains, that run on a better, cleaner and more reliable railway for generations to come.

“This commitment by the Government to our programme allows us to move two of our largest projects from design into construction and delivery. It brings us one big step closer to delivering the future of rail travel in the North of England.”

Darren Oldham, Transport for the North’s director of rail and road, added: “This is a major milestone for the project as it upgrades a key rail corridor across the North, bringing improvements for passengers and extra capacity for freight.

“TfN has been working with partners for some years to bring forward these benefits, which will lay the foundations for further transformational development from Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“We fully welcome the investment in this corridor as it will improve journey times, reliability, capability and capacity between Manchester and York via Huddersfield and Leeds.

“It will also reduce the pressure on the road network, particularly the M62 between West Yorkshire and Manchester.”