Improving regional links seen as cheaper and faster to achieve than HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail December 15, 2020

Improving rail links between cities in the North and Midlands should be the first priority of a new approach to end stop-start investments and help level up the UK as part of a wider economic strategy, according to a major new report by advisory body the National Infrastructure Commission.

The report analyses various approaches to providing rail links in the North while showing various estimated cost options.

An upgraded East Coast Main Line could allow 140mph trains to achieve their full potentialUpgrades and additions to exisiting railway infrastructure such as the Transpennine Route Upgrade between Manchester and York, Hope Valley Line Upgrade between Manchester and Sheffield, upgrades to the East Coast Main Line to take speeds to 140mph and electrification from Sheffield to Derby are seen as schemes which are quickest to deliver and at a baseline budget.

The report shows how putting the priority on long-distance links, particularly the eastern leg of HS2, serving Leeds, could at best be achieved at an estimated "25% over baseline budget" while some other schemes would then not go ahead. If the eastern leg of HS2 was built with a wider range of upgrades across the North and Midlands, but not including Northern Powerhouse Rail, this would go into a "50% over baseline budget" category.

Building the full Northern Powerhouse Rail route, including a new line from Manchester via Bradford to Leeds, but not the eastern arm of HS2, would also put costs into the "50% over baseline budget" category. This estimate is assessed even though a route has not actually been determined to achieve the expected straight line between Manchester and Bradford. *

(*One of the thickest obstacles in choosing a straight line from Manchester to Bradford would be Moss Moor, which is crossed by the highest point on Britain's motorway network, but there would also be many other engineering issues for the NPR scheme as the concept proposed, such as how to avoid Halifax.)

The National Infrastructure Commission points to rail electrification in the Midlands and the North being stop-start over recent years with gaps still on some city to city links including Manchester to York, the Midland Main Line in the East Midlands, and some suburban routes. It says it is also vital that there is a plan to decarbonise rail freight.

A Transpennine Route Upgrade should see electrification and separation of fast and stopping trains with four tracks and safer junctionsIt says some elements of major proposed rail projects present opportunities for earlier delivery, as work is under way already or because they are independent of other major schemes.

Potential options for earlier delivery include:
• the Transpennine Route Upgrade where work is already under way
• the Hope Valley Line Upgrade between Sheffield and Manchester being taken forward by Network Rail
• Midlands Engine Rail, including Midlands Rail Hub and Birmingham Airport connectivity.

The NIC adds that there are also some schemes, including upgrades on the East and West Coast Main Lines, that need to be progressed earlier in the timeframe to allow other schemes to advance.

It says: "Government should also ensure necessary upgrades to the conventional network are completed in time to enable the integration of new, faster rail lines like the HS2 Phase 2b western leg.

"There are several smaller scale interventions, particularly station improvements, that could deliver earlier benefits in the Midlands and the North."

Its list of potential improvements includes Middlesbrough station, which secured funding this year to lengthen platforms in 2021 and where a further platform would deliver additional capacity if funding was secured.

See Yorkshire's rail links in detail on the interactive Rail map , which has recently been updated with the latest timetable changes.

Where would HS2 take you from Yorkshire? See our HS2 destinations page.

Also in

 New    Places to visit    Gazetteer - a website. Made in Yorkshire UK   |  Terms of use  |  Privacy policy  with  No cookies  |  Contact  |