Key rail infrastructure in the North of England will be upgraded this summer to support the delivery of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) programme.
The work forms part of TRU’s wider goal to deliver sought-after improvements along the full 76-mile Transpennine route – stretching from York to Manchester, via Leeds and Huddersfield.
It will take place east of Manchester Victoria station, closing the lines towards Stalybridge and Rochdale, with a 16-day railway possession between these destinations from the 31 July until 16 August 2021.
During the 16-day closure hundreds of railway workers will be working day and night to renew key sections of track, including around Miles Platting, and upgrading railway bridges to improve reliability. This important work is the first step to enable wider improvements that are expected to bring much needed benefits to passengers.
The planned closure means that from 31 July there will be no trains between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge and Manchester Victoria and Rochdale until these lines reopen on 16 August. However, travel between these destinations will still be possible, either by train diversion or alternative transport such as buses to keep passengers moving. For instance, passengers travelling between Bradford and Manchester on the Calder Valley line will need to transfer onto a bus for the portion of the journey between Rochdale and Manchester Victoria.
Neil Holm, Network Rail’s Director for the Transpennine Route Upgrade programme, said: “The Transpennine Route Upgrade is a transformative, long-term project supporting economic growth in the North at a vital time and delivering real benefits for passengers and communities.
“A project of this size and scale means there will be times when we have to close the railway – and the 16-day closure this summer in Greater Manchester signifies one of these moments. However, working alongside train operators, we are committed to keeping passengers on a train as often as we possibly can, moving on time and in comfort. We are confident that the long-term legacy of the project will be worth the shorter-term inconvenience of the disruption.”
Despite the 16-day closure, direct train travel between Manchester and Leeds will still be possible but with trains departing/arriving via Manchester Piccadilly instead of Manchester Victoria station. Passengers wishing to travel between Yorkshire to Manchester Airport/Liverpool will be able to do so but with a change of trains at Manchester Piccadilly.
Rob Warnes, Strategic Development Director at Northern, said: “This is important work that absolutely needs to be done. Improving the track and infrastructure will mean more reliable journeys and in time more capacity and faster travel.
“We do recognise, however, that the closure of the line will mean customers will have a different travel experience and we want to provide as much notice of the changes as possible. During the 16-day closure journey times will be increased and buses will replace trains between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale affecting wider journeys between Bradford and Manchester.
“We are working up the full details of what these changes will mean and will provide more information to customers in the coming months.”
Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson, said: “The Transpennine Upgrade is at the heart of our commitment to improve rail journeys for passengers across the North, focused on significantly improving reliability and punctuality. As we build back better from Covid-19, boosting capacity and journey times, we will work with local partners to keep disruption throughout these vital upgrades to a minimum.”
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This rail route forms a vital link across the North, connecting cities and ports and supporting the regional and national economy. Leaders from across the North have been calling for improved connectivity for many years through High Speed Rail, Northern Powerhouse Rail and improved Transpennine connections. We welcome this work which should be seen as just the start of a transformational investment in rail across the North, supporting the Government’s levelling up agenda and ensuring we build back better from the pandemic. We will be working closely with both Network Rail and the train and freight operators to ensure, as this vital work progresses, passengers, business and communities are properly provided for and disruption is minimised wherever possible.”
Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Experience Director for TransPennine Express, said: “These works will affect some of our customers travelling through Manchester and we’d like to assure them that we have plans that will keep their disruption down to an absolute minimum.”
Additional railway upgrade work between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge is being planned for several weekends and bank holidays from late August through to early 2022. *Full details and the impact on travel services will be released soon.