Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : £1.5 Billion Strategy Launched for Manchester Rail Network [June 2001]

The press release issued by the Strategic Rail Authority on 20 June 2001.

A joint steering group led by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) and including Greater Manchester PTE (GMPTE), Railtrack, Manchester Airport, the Highways Agency and the Government Office for the North West, published today a strategy to increase freight and passenger usage on the Greater Manchester rail network over the next twenty years. The strategy calls for:

  • New higher frequency and faster TransPennine services and upgrading other inter-regional rail services.
  • Local heavy rail services providing a similar frequency and quality of services to existing Metrolink light rail services.
  • Improved rail services to Manchester Airport.
  • The development of new capacity for future freight growth.

The strategy, costing roundly £1.5billion in new infrastructure, is expected to deliver net economic benefits. Taking forward the strategy is subject to further examination of value for money and affordability. The Steering Group proposes further development work over the next nine months on the following priorities:

  • Examination of the potential for trackshare to deliver Metrolink quality local services on heavy rail.
  • Further development of a strategy for Greater Manchester routing rail freight around the city centre.
  • Examination of the impact of these proposals on city centre heavy rail capacity, where current traffic is likely to be modified and/or increased following the award of the new Transpennine Express and Northern franchises.
  • Examination of the feasibility and business case for the potential Airport Western Link.

Speaking at Manchester Airport today, Sir Alastair Morton, Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, said:

“The study highlights the benefits of an integrated approach to developing Manchester’s transport strategy, within the context of major investment in the regional network. In particular, I attach a high priority to seeing improved rail links to the airport being developed. The Steering Group should now make further progress with these proposals.

“The strategic study builds on the £1bn investment currently being invested in the Greater Manchester rail network and provides the framework for further improvements to the network. The SRA looks to the creation of a new TransPennine Express to unlock the potential of rail on this corridor, and then a new Northern franchise can be the key to improving local services.”

Manchester Airport chief executive Geoff Muirhead said:

“Unlocking Manchester’s rail network has been identified as the region’s number one transport priority. Now we have consensus on the key priorities, there is a real urgency to drive this programme forward and make serious progress in making radical improvements to the rail system – developments which will trigger a significant boost for the North West economy. We are very pleased that the study recognises the importance of providing high quality rail services to Manchester Airport and the potential for further improvements to feeder routes.”

GMPTE Director General, Chris Mulligan, said:

“The study gives a welcome impetus towards the solution of long standing capacity problems in the Greater Manchester area, which should benefit Manchester Airport, Greater Manchester and the whole region – we look forward to the early resolution of funding and implementation strategies”.

Railtrack North West zone director Mike Cowman said:

“Manchester is the hub of an important railway crossing where north/south and east/west services meet. Capacity is an important issue now and is going to become ever more critical in the coming years. Railtrack is as keen as its partners to see the capacity constraints overcome and looks forward to an early resolution of the problem to ensure long-term growth in the rail and associated industries.”

Highways Agency Divisional Director Eric Belfield said:

“Our involvement was a reinforcement of our commitment to seek solutions to the transport problems of today, through joint working with other strategic partners. We are pleased with the progress so far and look forward to playing a continuing part in maintaining the impetus.”

The strategy was announced at Manchester Airport’s Transport Forum and local Authorities and other stakeholders are being invited to submit their views to the Steering Group.