The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a new consultation on improving the performance on the rail network in and around Manchester.
Three options are being presented to passengers, featuring increasing levels of change from the pre-COVID service patterns. The three options affect different routes, and which routes have direct services to Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations, and Manchester Airport.
Once decided, the agreed option will be introduced in May 2022 and will significantly improve overall reliability whilst maintaining the pre-Covid travel connections for the vast majority of passengers. Some changes may mean making different choices for travel.
The DfT believes that this change will give passengers a more reliable service with less risk of knock-on delays, whilst longer term infrastructure changes are developed that will enable more services to be added in the future in a sustainable way.
The three options are:
Option A – Most existing origins and destinations are retained, particularly for Newcastle to Piccadilly and Sheffield to Airport journeys.
Option B – Maintains Airport connectivity for Liverpool and North Wales. The Cleethorpes/Nottingham service via Sheffield to Liverpool is increased to a standard 2 trains per hour. This means there is no longer a through service from Sheffield to Manchester Airport; a movement which is very operationally challenging at Manchester Piccadilly. Passengers from Warrington Central would also need to change at Piccadilly to access the Airport.
Option C – Makes the most interventions and moves closest to 30-minute frequencies on most of the corridors into Manchester, including services on the Blackburn, Calder Valley, Chorley, Wigan, Buxton, Chester via Warrington Bank Quay, Airport (stopping) and Crewe lines. In Timetable Option C, a number of stations gain an improvement in frequency, helping contribute to overall benefits.
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.
Photo: Northern Class 158 at Manchester Victoria in 2015. (Credit El Pollock)