Political and transport leaders from across the North of England have urged the government to fully commit to delivering key rail investment projects including the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan.
Transport for the North’s (TfN) Rail North Committee have argued that planned infrastructure upgrades have not progressed quickly enough and are harming capacity and connectivity in the region. The call comes following a consultation on service changes to trains passing through Greater Manchester’s Castlefield Corridor, a major bottleneck, which include services from Cheshire stations and Manchester Airport. TfN argues that delays to rail investment are exacerbating existing problems on the track.
With the Government having yet to publish the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, the region’s mayors and local authority leaders say they are being asked to make decisions about services on behalf of the North’s passengers whilst ‘totally in the dark’ about funding and timing of rail investments over the next decade.
TfN’s Rail North Committee has now resolved in its latest meeting that timetable changes will only be accepted once the government has responded to the following conditions:
- The Integrated Rail Plan to be published this month (July 2021), detailing what rail projects in the North will be funded and when they will be delivered
- An accelerated timetable for a package of initial rail infrastructure schemes in Manchester, to start earlier than currently planned
- Ensure the infrastructure schemes in Manchester enable long-held commitments for new connections, including services from Bradford and the Calder Valley to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport
- Provide firm commitment to reinstate the direct rail link between South Yorkshire and Manchester Airport, if removed in December 2022, and timescales of when the service will be reinstated
- Satisfactory resolution of the detailed Cheshire and cross-Warrington service pattern (and Manchester services) during the next phase of timetable development
Transport for the North has now written publicly to Ministers on behalf of the North’s passengers and will meet again to consider next steps before the end of July.
In TfN’s letter, Interim Chief Executive Tim Wood said:
The fundamental issue here is that the North is being asked to cut back its rail services at the exact moment the country is being asked to support economic recovery without any clear picture of when the required infrastructure to do this will be in place. We need a clear plan that allows services and connections lost as part of reducing the number of trains on the Manchester Corridor to be reinstated as soon as possible.”