New consultation aimed at improving rail services around Manchester

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A new consultation on improving the performance on the rail network in and around Manchester has been launched.

Passengers are being presented with 3 options that feature increasing levels of change from the pre-COVID service patterns:

• simplifying and spacing service patterns more evenly

• reducing the number of services running on the most congested part of the network

• separating train movements as far as possible to minimise the amount of delay one train may cause on another

The 3 options affect different routes, and which routes have direct services to Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations, and Manchester Airport.

The Government says that the agreed option, scheduled to be introduced in May 2022, will significantly improve overall reliability while maintaining the pre-COVID travel connections for the vast majority of passengers.

Whilst some changes may mean making different choices for travel, the Government says the change will give passengers a more reliable service with less risk of knock-on delays, while longer-term infrastructure changes are developed that will enable more services to be added in the future in a sustainable way.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Rail Minister, said "We are putting the power to improve Manchester's rail network in the hands of those that use it daily.

"I urge passengers to use this opportunity to comment on the future of your railway.

"Improving punctuality and reliability is one of my key priorities. As we continue to build back better from the pandemic, these proposals will ensure that the rail network is more dependable for those who use it every day."

Congestion in the region before the pandemic created regular delays to services around Manchester, with knock-on impacts to reliability across the north. While the public are being asked to stay at home, the rail industry is using this opportunity to plan improvements around Manchester ready for when passengers return in much greater numbers.

This work brings together the DfT, Transport for the North, Network Rail, and the train operators Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE).

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said "I welcome this consultation and the government's focus on this issue. The bottleneck in central Manchester is a problem for the whole of the north – and solving these congestion issues will improve the reliability of rail services for passengers right across the north.

"As we look to build back better from the pandemic, we want to work with the government to deliver a reliable and dependable timetable, alongside the much-needed upgrades to our Victorian infrastructure."

Liam Robinson, Transport for The North's Rail North Committee Chair, said "Passengers need a better deal when it comes to reliability. When they return to the north's trains, they need to step onto services with confidence.

"Manchester's congested rail network has long been the source of delays and frustration for passengers, with knock-on effects for the north's communities. We urge everyone to take a look and give their view on these proposals.

"While the goal of these short-term changes is to reduce delays and increase reliability, it is clear that the work we are doing with government and the industry on longer-term investment in rail infrastructure is also critically important, alongside changes to services."

Download the public consultation document.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Vince Chadwick
Saturday 16th January 2021 at 1:21 pm
This study specifically excludes infrastructure improvements. That's like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic instead of fixing the hole in the ship. Our local train service for Wilmslow and Alderley became hopelessly unreliable following Grayling's May 2018 timetable changes, when those services were extended beyond Manchester to Southport and Liverpool,

Grayling's main 'gotcha' for railways in the Manchester area was not to authorise the vital station and signalling enhancements at Piccadilly and Oxford Road which were planned as part of the Ordsall Chord scheme to link Piccadilly Station to Victoria. The chord itself was built, but that was it! All that did was to force more traffic through the already full Castlefield Corridor (a 2-track bottleneck between Designate and Piccadilly). It is the post May 2018 need for our local trains to thread this corridor which made their timetable a work of fiction.

As a minimum the remainder of the Ordsall Chord project should be completed. In addition, the proposed Northern Airport Link should be built, making the Airport station a through station to connect with the Mid Cheshire Line at Mobberley. This would not be cheap as it would require a tunnel under the Airport, but it would provide a much needed alternative route which avoids the city centre bottleneck.

There is another study in circulation which looks to relocate the Trafford Park Container Terminal to a brownfield site at Carrington, which already has a mothballed rail link. This would enable the vital container trains to and from East and South coast ports which completely occupy the Castlefield Corridor twice and hour from one end to another to be re-routed away from the city centre.

If this was London, all of this and more would be done. As it is, we'll just carry on re-arranging the deck chairs.