Investment for upgrading train services running across the north of England will be more than trebled, the Government has announced.
On Tuesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will announce an investment worth up to £11.5 billion for the Transpennine Route Upgrades (TRU), which had been a £2.9 billion project on services between Manchester and York, via Leeds.
Mr Shapps said the extra investment would see the route fitted with the latest technology including complete electrification, full digital signalling and extra tracks.
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He said: “This is the single biggest investment any government has ever made in Britain’s railways. It’s right up there and probably beyond what the Victorians were doing.”
He said services on the train line had not “kept pace with the times” but the upgrade would make them more reliable, less crowded, better for the environment and more like commuting in London and the South East.
The improvements will see a journey from Manchester to Leeds take just over 30 minutes, instead of up to an hour, according to Mr Shapps.
He said: “What I’ve been determined to do as Transport Secretary these last three years is really address this historic lack of balance between some of the spending in the South and what happens in the North.
“So to give you an example, now the north will receive more money per head than the Midlands or the South.
“That means that in the North, there’ll be about 14% more spent per head of population than nationally.
“So for the first time ever, we’re seeing greater expenditure in the North. That’s a real reverse of the previous situation and it’s all part of our plan to level up the whole country.”
Almost £1 billion of the investment will be released to progress the next phase on electrification of the railway line between Stalybridge and Manchester.
Mr Shapps added: “This entire investment, of which I’m announcing the next £1 billion of it today, will be worth up to £11.5 billion in total and it will revolutionise that journey across the Pennines.”
The funding is the first detailed expenditure from the £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan investment, Mr Shapps said.
Once the upgrade is in place, from 2025, commuters can expect an extra two passenger trains every hour and journey times up to 40% shorter.
The work is intended to set the foundations for Northern Powerhouse Rail, a programme to boost east-west connections across the North.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, said: “This is yet another re-announcement of existing funding from a headline-seeking Transport Secretary.
“The funding is of course welcome, but if this Government was serious about backing our railways, then it needs to do much more to tackle rip-off ticket prices and improve reliability and end-to-end journeys.
“Full commitment to a rolling programme of electrification and a concerted effort to encourage people out of private vehicles and into low-carbon public transport is needed more than ever as we experience the burning effects of climate change.”
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the northern economy had been held back by a “decade of broken promises” from the Government on proposed improvements to the line between Manchester and Leeds.
She said: “People in the North are sick and tired of the empty words of this discredited Government.
“The facts speak for themselves – the Conservatives’ calamitous mishandling of this project has wasted hundreds of millions of pounds, and is set to be more than a decade late.
“A Labour government would deliver infrastructure fit for the 21st century, and give Britain the fresh start it needs.”Enjoy more of The Railway Magazine reading every month. Click here to subscribe.