The £3bn of upgrades promised for a major rail route across Yorkshire should be “just the start of much-needed significant transport infrastructure investment”, one of the region’s most senior civic leaders said tonight.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake was among those calling for the Government to release more details about the proposed improvements to the TransPennine route between Manchester, Leeds and York.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today announced that the work would start next Spring and said he had instructed Network Rail to prioritise “the things that will make the biggest difference for passengers”.
Speaking in Leeds, he said details of the upgrades would be revealed in the coming months but suggested they would include electrification of the route, as well as extra junctions and track-straightening work so trains could travel more quickly.
Coun Blake said: “We welcome this announcement about upgrading the TransPennine route and we are keen to see the full details, especially the extent of the electrification proposed.
It is a central part of what government is doing, a central part of cross-government work, and it is also very important to me.Chris Grayling talks about the Northern Powerhouse
“This needs to be just the start of much-needed significant transport infrastructure investment in the North and we will continue to push for more to be delivered as quickly as possible to boost our economic growth and to improve the lives of millions of people.”
Her Bradford counterpart Susan Hinchcliffe, who yesterday was promised a station in her city as part of the high speed Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme, said she shared Mr Grayling’s desire that improvements are made to the TransPennine route as soon as possible.
She said: “Ensuring the benefits of upgrading the TransPennine route are maximised is a critical step towards the longer-term plans for strengthening existing transport corridors all across the North and building new ones as outlined in Transport for the North’s plan.”
Last year, Mr Grayling suggested complete electrification may not be the answer to improving TransPennine journeys, despite David Cameron promising the move while Prime Minister.
He said yesterday that new bi-mode trains, which can run on electricity or diesel, will arrive in the North in 2019, meaning that in the near future “people will be travelling on trains that will be with them for a long time across the Pennines, and experiencing a better travel experience”.
Weeks after figures highlighted the disparity between planned transport infrastructure spending in Yorkshire and London, Mr Grayling insisted the Government was committed to the Northern Powerhouse concept.
He said: “It is a central part of what government is doing, a central part of cross-government work, and it is also very important to me.”