Transpennine works to save 10 minutes by 'mid-2030s'


The Government has announced what it called a ‘multi-billion-pound funding boost’ for the TransPennine route upgrade (TRU), but the announcement leaves confirmed cash for the programme short of the £9bn budget pledged by the transport secretary last year.

On Monday rail minister Huw Merriman announced a further £3.9bn for Network Rail’s plans to improve connections across the pennines, which the DfT said ‘means government has invested a total of £6.9 billion into the upgrade’.

However, last year the then transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said funding would be ‘more than trebled’, from £2.9bn to more than £9bn. At the time, Mr Shapps was accused of ‘headline seeking’ as the Treasury had not confirmed funding approval for the programme beyond the end of the 2022-23 financial year.

On Monday, the Department for Transport (DfT) said further funding will be confirmed as the project progresses to ‘support’ the overall cost of up to £11.5bn, but this left open the possibility that no more funding will be provided.

A spokesperson told Transport Network that further funding will be released as the project continues to reach ‘up to’ £11.5bn – again falling short of a commitment to provide the funding pledged by Mr Shapps or to fund the programme in full.

According to the DfT, the latest upgrade within the programme will not be complete until ‘the mid-2030s’. The Department did not respond to a request for clarification on the timeline for the funding.

Last year the department said that the full route will be fitted with the latest technology, including ‘full digital signalling’, but this week it said only that the cash would ‘support digital signalling along the route’.

The new works are expected to make only a marginal difference in journey times. Last year the DfT said the full TRU programme is expected to ‘slash journey times by up to 40%’. This is consistent with Network Rail’s plans for the TRU, to cut journey times from Manchester to York from around 100 minutes to as low as 63 minutes.

However, the DfT said on Monday that by the mid-2030s, the upgrade will cut journey times between Manchester and York by just 10 minutes.

Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, said he had been informed that the cash is only for upgrade of stations, not to improve the track.

A spokesperson Network Rail disputed this, stating that one of the key projects that the funding puts into delivery is the construction of a viaduct at Ravensthorpe, which will support the doubling of track in the region to four.

The spokesperson said the cash allows Network Rail to bring works between Huddersfield and Leeds and Leeds and Church Fenton into the delivery phase, as well as pushing forward with delivery of plans to improve accessibility at stations across this area and between Greater Manchester and Huddersfield. for clarification of what work the new cash will fund.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Rail Industry Association, said: ‘Today’s restatement of previously announced funding for the Transpennine Route Upgrade is a welcome confirmation that the programme will continue to progress.

‘However, as far as we understand this is not new money for rail and is not a new pipeline opportunity for rail suppliers. As the Government itself would say, TRU has been under development for more than a decade.’

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