Network Rail to start next stage of works to unblock Manchester’s railways

Network Rail will now rapidly start the next stage of work to unblock Manchester’s railways after it was given £10 million in design and development funding. The work will examine options to resolve capacity and reliability problems on the network.

This is the next step in the government’s programme to transform rail services in northern England following the nationalisation of Northern Rail in March.

The announcement was made by Boris Johnson on Tuesday (June 30th) as part of vital new upgrades for road and rail in a speech setting out plans for massive investment in UK infrastructure, to drive forward the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

He said: “We have learned the wonders of Zoom and MS Teams, the joys of muting or unmuting our colleagues at key moments, but we still need to travel and more than ever the time has come when we must unite and level up in the most basic way possible not just with HS2 and NPR but with better roads, better rail unblocking the central Manchester bottleneck that delays services across the north and 4000 brand new zero carbon buses and a massive new plan for cycleways and we will build and rebuild those vital connexions to every part of the UK.”

The work to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck has been welcomed by Transport for the North’s Chief Executive Barry White, who said: “The development funding to help unblock this major rail congestion spot, which has a wide impact on rail services across northern England, is welcome news.

“What’s essential now is that we can work together, at pace, to develop and fund the right long-term solution for the North that gives passengers the reliable rail services they need. We are already actively engaged with Government and the rail industry on this issue and the fact that it is now recognised as a high priority scheme has to be good news.”

However, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), says railway suppliers will be disappointed by the lack of new rail projects the Government plans to speed up.

He said: “The Prime Minister’s speech today urged the UK to ‘build, build, build’ to ensure an economic recovery following the Coronavirus outbreak, and it was good to see plans to unblock the Manchester bottleneck mentioned. However, whilst the speech set the right tone, railway suppliers will be disappointed by the lack of specific new rail projects the Government plans to speed up.

“The railway industry will play a key role to play in any economic recovery, and so we urge the Government to announce in the coming weeks a clear pipeline of accelerated work it will support across the country to deliver economic growth, investment and jobs. Suppliers need to see specific schemes with delivery timelines so they can plan and build their project teams, delivering a world-class rail network which benefits not just rail but UK plc more widely, its economy and long-term connectivity.”

The Transport Secretary also announced today that over 50 bids have been received from across the country for a share of the Restoring Your Railways ‘Ideas Fund’.

This marks the next step for the second round of the fund which will offer support to develop proposals to build or reopen lines and stations closed during the Beeching cuts, with the potential to level up regional economies and boost access to jobs and education.

Local authorities have now submitted bids for a share of the second round of the Restoring Your Railways ‘Ideas Fund’.

Proposals for the restoration of lines and stations to re-connect their communities will now be considered by an expert panel including Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy, with announcements regarding the successful schemes expected over the summer.

The government has also announced today it will work with devolved administrations to carry out a ‘connectivity review’, looking at how best to improve road, rail, air and sea links between our four nations.

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