Our community will be benefiting from the Government pledge of a multi-million-pound boost to improve rail connections across the our region. The Government will be investing £589m to kickstart work on the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester, alongside the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities. The Council will be led by Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.
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. Most of the line will be electrified, and our ambition is to go further. Full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity are now under consideration as part of an "Integrated Rail Plan" due to report in December.
Those improvements would allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle; bring longer and more frequent trains; and create significantly more local capacity along the line.
Improvements to allow more freight on the route, replacing thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains, will also be considered in the Plan.
Work is also under way to tackle the bottlenecks at either end of the route, without which the upgrade's potential cannot be fulfilled. Leeds station is being resignalled and a new platform is being built. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion.
The Council will ensure northern leaders have a direct line to ministers and has been formed with the desire to cut bureaucracy and red tape so passengers can get the modern, reliable transport network they deserve as quickly as possible.
As part of the government’s wider strategy to level up communities and strengthen devolution, the Council’s work will engage with Department for Transport (DfT) staff based in northern cities and dedicated to delivering for the North.
This follows the announcement of a range of investments to level-up infrastructure across the North including £20m to deliver infrastructure renewals on the Tyne and Wear Metro, following £15m announced to upgrade Horden, Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.
I am so pleased to hear this news. I have been making the case for improvements to our rail infrastructure for a while now, working on and putting in bids into the Restoring our Railway fund to reverse Beeching closures and more. It's fantastic that the Government has listened and agrees with me and my northern colleagues.
Our area has so much to offer and this investment will level up the North and help us reach our full potential. I know this will be make a huge difference to our community as we build back better and I look forward to engaging with other northern leaders and the Government on future rail projects.