Trains on Transpennine route between Leeds, York and Manchester to be faster and more reliable with £317m of new funding, says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
More than £300m of investment to make train journeys between Leeds, York and Manchester more punctual and reliable has been announced by the Government in a bid to create a transport network that is “fit for the future”.
The Department for Transport says £317m will be spent on the vital Transpennine Route, which sees 100 trains pass through every day. Electrification of the line between York and Church Fenton which would allow new and upgraded hybrid trains to run under electric power is already underway.
Ministers say even more extensive electrification on the route is currently being considered and that electrification will “form an important part of the Government’s agenda to achieve zero carbon by 2050”.
The £317m will allow design work to progress for the bulk of the programme, including line speed improvements along the route, partial electrification of the route and required work at stations.
The partial electrification includes sections between Manchester and Stalybridge, Huddersfield and Leeds and Church Fenton and York, which represents over 50 per cent of the total route.
Strategic body Transport for the North praised the “increase in train speeds across the Pennines and upgrades to the aging infrastructure for the benefit of passengers” but said clarity was still needed on wider proposals for the development.
Northern leaders also also awaiting the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan which will set out how the Transpennine route upgrade will fit in with HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail project connecting the cities of the North.
And the leader of Leeds city council said today's announcement was just "one piece of the jigsaw" and more clarity was needed on the future of these major projects.
The investment announced today includes £15m to help two new stations to be built on the outskirts of Leeds, one at White Rose between Morley and Cottingley on the Transpennine route and another at Thorpe Park, a parkway station on the Leeds to York section of the line.
In total the two stations will cost £55m to build, with the costs being met by sources including the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, the Leeds Public Transport Investment Programme and private contributions.
Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson will visit major works taking place along the Transpennine route in Yorkshire today, including at Leeds, Hambleton and Colton, to see electrification works.
He said: “Additional investment into the Transpennine Route Upgrade will cut delays and create a more punctual network, with electrification helping deliver greener journeys on this key route.
“Only by investing in, modernising and expanding our railways can we provide passengers with the reliable and resilient services they expect, and create a transport network that is fit for the future.”
The funding for the Transpennine Route comes on the back of £589m promised by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last summer to kickstart work on the route.
Mr Shapps said that most of the line would be electrified and that the most congested section of the route will be doubled from two to four tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the North.
He said today: “Modernising and upgrading our vital transport links is critical to levelling up every part of this country, unleashing our economy and spreading opportunity as we build back better.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “This continuing investment in rail connectivity here in the North should help to tackle our long-standing problems with unreliable services and constrained capacity.
“We need to do more to close the distance between our great Northern cities, bringing people closer to jobs and businesses closer to workers.
“Upgrades alone won’t deliver the transformational change the North needs to improve productivity and create opportunities. This is why we need to see both legs of HS2 delivered in full.
“We await further upgrades to be ready for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) south of Church Fenton, as this will be needed to take off trains travelling on the new line north to Darlington and Newcastle, as well as improving journeys to Manchester and Liverpool in the immediate future.
“Looping Bradford into Northern Powerhouse Rail through a new city centre station is a critical early step to the east-west NPR network.
“White Rose and Thorpe Park are both critical local station schemes, and will bring local people across wider areas closer to jobs in Leeds. Next we need to see the new Leeds Bradford Airport parkway station, reducing emissions and congestion from cars travelling to and from the new replacement terminal once built.”
Tim Wood, Interim Chief Executive at Transport for the North, said: “It’s great to see the next round of funding unlocked for major work on this route to commence at pace.
“It will deliver improvements both east and west of Leeds with works this summer set to support future electrification, an increase in train speeds across the Pennines and upgrades to the aging infrastructure for the benefit of passengers.
“This is really welcomed news and a key part of Transport for the North’s investment programme to transform our rail network. However, we still need clarity on the full proposal for the Transpennine Route Upgrade and we will work with Government collaboratively to achieve more capacity and resilience in this major rail artery.”
James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This funding package is encouraging news and it’s good to see that our long-standing calls for greater investment in the rail network in and around Leeds are being taken on board.
“The White Rose and Thorpe Park stations will make a big difference to the lives of people in the city by delivering enhanced links to these two areas of employment growth. They will also play a part in our efforts to tackle the climate emergency by helping take cars off the road, which will in turn improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
“The Transpennine route upgrade, meanwhile, will mean better transport connections between Leeds and other great cities of the North, something that will be more vital than ever as our region strives to build back stronger after the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important to note, however, that this is just one piece of the jigsaw. We also urgently need clarity on plans for the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail with a stop in Bradford, all of which would complement the work on the Transpennine route and help to further unlock the massive potential of communities across Leeds and beyond.”
Tan Dhesi, Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister, said: “Yet another rail infrastructure announcement with no timescales attached. Communities want action, not just warm words and more promises from a party that regularly dithers and delays.
“This announcement is no substitute for the long awaited and postponed integrated rail plan which must be published now and must involve a rolling programme of electrification, not delivering in dribs and drabs, which ends up costing the British taxpayer more.
“Instead of delivering on the improvements he pledged, Boris Johnson is raising rail fares and cutting Network Rail budgets, whilst his flexible ticketing announcement lacks the detail to make it meaningful.”