Rail in the North Campaign

Introduction

Businesses of all sizes need reliable connectivity in order to succeed and prosper. Throughout 2012, as part of our Action For Business plan, the Chamber will be supporting and campaigning on a number of projects that will greatly improve rail travel for businesses across Greater Manchester and further afield.

Northern Hub

One of the projects that we will be focusing on is the Northern Hub campaign, which is Network Rail’s plan to stimulate economic growth by upgrading the rail network of the North. At present, there is a major bottleneck on the rail system and Network Rail has developed plans for £560million of targeted investment to relieve the bottleneck. You can watch a video about the Northern Hub below.

The plans consist of several infrastructure projects which, when completed in full, will bring over £4billion to the Northern economy. The projects include:

The Ordsall Chord

Network Rail needs to build a viaduct to connect Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria Stations in order to carry a 1km section of track to the north west of Castlefield junction. This will be called the Ordsall Chord and will allow for a new route across the city. The rail network to the south of Piccadilly station is currently heavily congested and limits the number of services on the network and causes significant delays.

Timescale: Funding for the Ordsall Chord was granted by the Government in March 2011. It is hoped that the Ordsall Chord could be operational by December 2016.

New Tracks

Creating new tracks on the line between Leeds and Liverpool and between Sheffield and Manchester will allow fast trains between the major towns and cities of the North to overtake slower trains.

Manchester Victoria

Network Rail is working with Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Northern Rail on their plans to transform Victoria Station. The plans include: a brand new, state-of-the-art roof; improved connections to the MEN Arena; new shops and cafes; refurbished heritage features and station frontage; new platforms to accommodate faster and more frequent trains; and improved Metrolink facilities.

Timescale: The planning and listed building applications will be submitted in March 2012 and it is hoped that the roof and redevelopment work will begin in Winter 2012/13 for completion in Spring 2014.

New Platforms

Two new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly will allow more trains to run through rather than terminate in Manchester, providing more direct train services across the North.

Electrification

Work to electrify the rail network between Manchester and Liverpool and up to Preston and Blackpool is already underway, with government-confirmed funding announced in October 2010. Electrification will make journeys faster, quieter and more reliable and, in conjunction with the rest of the Northern Hub improvements, will enable more trains to run.

Timescale: Work will be completed in phases, with Manchester to Newton-le-Willows and West Coast mainline expected to be finished by December 2013, Newton-le-Willows to Liverpool and Huyton to Wigan completed by December 2014, Preston to Blackpool completed by 2015 and Manchester Victoria to Preston completed by December 2016. Transpennine electrification to Leeds and York is estimated to be completed by 2018.

Rolling Stock

We already suffer from overcrowding on many of the trains serving Greater Manchester in the peak times. The corridors serving Bolton (45% of peak services), Stalybridge (43% of peak services), Atherton and the Chat Moss line are particularly badly affected. Recent TfGM figures suggest that 21 new vehicles would be required to relieve overcrowding on all peak services, with an expectation that further carriages would be needed as passenger numbers continue to grow. Some additional carriages were delivered in December 2011, but more will be needed. As electrification is completed, there will be the need for electric vehicles and we will be asking for these to be in addition to the current vehicles, not to replace them.

Benefits to Businesses

By making rail travel across the North faster and more frequent, the Northern Hub will boost the region’s economy by £4.2 billion and create up to 30,000 extra jobs. The key elements are:

  • Up to 700 more trains per day, so that 44 million more passengers can travel by train each year.
  • Two extra fast trains per hour between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool.
  • Six fast trains per hour between Manchester and Leeds (up from four per hour).
  • Journey times between Leeds and Manchester reduced by ten minutes.
  • Journey times between Liverpool and Manchester reduced by 10-15 minutes.
  • A new direct service through Manchester City Centre to Manchester Airport.
  • Faster and more frequent services from Sheffield and East Midlands, Chester, Bradford, Halifax, Hull, Newcastle and the North East.
  • Double the capacity of freight on rail into Trafford Park.
  • £4 boost to the economy for every £1 spent on Northern Hub improvements.

Our Activity

Network Rail submitted the proposal for the Northern Hub to Government in September 2011 as part of the Initial Industry Plan and expects a decision from Government by Summer 2012.

The projects outlined above have been the focus of the Chamber’s lobbying activity for a number of years, however as the response from Government is expected this year, we will be embarking on a schedule of activity aimed at ensuring delivery of the Northern Hub in its entirety during the coming months.

Our activity will include: garnering the support of Greater Manchester MPs and members of the business community, working with key partners and stakeholders to bolster support for the campaign, holding events to raise awareness of the Northern Hub and highlighting how people can show their support.

A 'Rail in the North Business Conference' will be taking place on 15th February at The Liner At Liverpool hotel. Focusing on the Northern Hub, the event will examine the business case for the project and illustrate the political process necessary for its approval. To book your place, click here.

We have also produced a post card that individuals can sign to show their support for the Northern Hub campaign. Simply download the Northern Hub Postcard then feel free to complete it and either e-mail it back to emma.antrobus@gmchamber.co.uk, or post it to us instead: Emma Antrobus, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Churchgate House, 56 Oxford Street, Manchester, M60 7HJ. Thank you for your support.

Further Information

The Chamber is committed to seeing all of this work come to fruition to provide Greater Manchester and the North of England with an improved railway to support the economy and to improve quality of life. It is essential that all the work is completed, not delivered in a fragmented or piecemeal way. We look forward to having improvements to rail services alongside smart ticketing solutions to provide a quality rail service, though accept that this increased accessibility may lead to reductions in subsidy.

We would welcome your views on any of these issues. If you have any comments please contact Emma Antrobus on emma.antrobus@gmchamber.co.uk

For more information, visit www.northernhub.co.uk and sign up for updates via e-mail.