The revised project to electrify the north trans-Pennine line between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and York is to be significantly bigger and more far-reaching than the original scheme, said Viscount Younger of Leckie, responding for the Government after a short debate in the House of Lords on December 10.
The programme was ‘paused’ on June 25 2015 and then ‘un-paused’ just before the publication of the Hendy review (RAIL 785).
Viscount Younger said: “The previous plan for the trans-Pennine line changed only the power supply of trains - it did not include the track work required to make journeys faster or for more frequent trains.
“The new plan for the full route upgrade will, by 2022: make journeys faster, taking up to 15 minutes off today’s journey time between Manchester and York, right across to the east; permit more frequent fast trains - up to six fast trains an hour with limited stops between Manchester and Leeds; reduce crowding by allowing longer trains to run; and improve performance.
“The original plan offered poor value for money. It included only electrification of the existing track, which brought limited benefits to passengers. The passenger benefits secured by the new upgrade proposal are expected to make the scheme medium to high value for money.
“We are pushing on with works on the ground this coming January to improve the Calder Valley route from Manchester to Leeds via Rochdale and Bradford. These improvements will initially allow the Calder Valley to be used as a diversionary route for trans-Pennine services normally using the route via Huddersfield, while it is closed for major work to enable the six tunnels along the route to accommodate the overhead electric wires. This includes the three-mile Standedge tunnel.”
Referring to the development of HS3 (a proposed new rail line east-west across the north of England), Viscount Younger said: “The Government has, jointly with Transport for the North, set out its vision for the transformation of the east-west rail connections across the Pennines - we now call this the Northern Powerhouse Rail Network. With TfN, we have commissioned Network Rail to examine how we can deliver a 30-minute journey time between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, with links onward to Hull, Newcastle, Liverpool and, importantly, Manchester Airport. We will publish the findings of this work early (in 2016).”