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Helen Carter, Monday 16th July 2012 17:06
Business leaders and politicians in the north have welcomed the announcement of a massive investment in the railway infrastructure that will boost the cities known as The Northern Hub.
In Manchester, two new platforms at Piccadilly station will allow more trains to run through the city – rather than stopping there.
Ordsall Chord, a short railway line, will provide a link between Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations. This project was already funded by the government in March 2011.
New tracks on the line between Leeds and Liverpool and separately, Sheffield and Manchester will allow fast trains to overtake slow ones and not be otherwise delayed. Journey times will be reduced and the capacity for extra passengers vastly increased.
Manchester Victoria will be transformed into a single transport interchange that is "safer, better and more spacious," according to Network Rail. For years, the station has had problems with leaks from the roof.
Under the proposals, the 160-year-old Grade 2-listed station could get a transparent roof similar to the one at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
The £560m of targeted infrastructure will help the north thrive with the potential to create thousands of new jobs. Network Rail estimates that every pound spent will boost the economy by £4.
The company says there will be up to 700 trains per day with space for 44m more people to travel by train every year.
Two new fast trains an hour will depart from Manchester Victoria to Liverpool and an additional two fast trains per hour between Leeds and Manchester [there are four currently.]
Journey times between Leeds and Manchester could be reduced by approximately 10 minutes, while journey times between Liverpool and Manchester, could reduce by 10 to 15 minutes.
A new direct service will connect Manchester's airport with the city centre.
Graham Botham, of Network Rail, said "The government's decision to support full funding of the Northern Hub is excellent news for passengers across the north, who will enjoy faster, more frequent services: up to 700 extra a day. The project demonstrates how investment in infrastructure can unlock economic potential by better connecting towns and cities - it will deliver £4bn of benefits to the Northern economy and create between 20,000 and 30,000 new jobs. The project will also create the capacity for 44 million more passenger journeys a year, whether for leisure or business – a welcome boost to allow the northern economy to continue to thrive."
Geoff Muirhead, Chairman of the North West Rail Campaign said: "Commitment from the government to all the funding necessary to see the Northern Hub completed is wonderful news. The scheme with a rate of return of over four to one will provide the infrastructure for a massive improvement in capacity and speed across the northern rail system. The NW Rail Campaign has been advocating this as a key priority for many years and I would wish to pay tribute to all involved for their unflagging effort which has at last borne fruit."
Work could start in 2014, with the Ordsall Chord completed in 2016 and the rest of the Hub improvements – additional through-platforms at Manchester Piccadilly and more overtaking areas to allow greater frequency of services – by 2018.
The Northern Hub was announced by the government alongside a raft of other rail investment projects worth a total of £9bn. The other schemes include electrification of the Midland Main Line between Bedford and Sheffield.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, said it was an "essential step" in improving rail transport across the whole of the north.
He said: "The improvements will provide better connections to towns and cities across the north of England into growth centres such as the new Airport City enterprise zone and provide better access to the international air links provided from Manchester Airport. That, in turn, will give businesses across the north better access to the global marketplace and allow the northern economy to develop further on an international setting."
In Leeds, Councillor Ryk Downes, of the city council, said: "In 13 years, the previous government managed to electrify just nine miles of track. So far this government has committed to electrifying 850 miles already. Helping to reduce emissions, speed up trains and bring our rail network up to date." He said it was a foundation of the economy to get public transport right.