Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : Strategic Rail Plan – Briefing for the North West region [January 2002]

The press release issued by the Strategic Rail Authority on 14 January 2002.

Briefing for the North West region

(the area covered is that of the Government Office for the North West – Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Halton and Warrington)

Objectives of the Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan sets out the SRA’s plan to tackle the industry’s problems and its priorities for the short, medium and long to:

  • restore stability in the industry, allowing performance to improve;
  • deliver growth to meet the 10 Year Plan core targets
  • 50% increase in passenger kilometres
  • reduction in overcrowding which breaches the SRA’s standards
  • 80% increase in freight tonne-kilometres
  • build a pipeline of projects at different stages of developments against which contractors and suppliers can plan.

The plan also meets where possible the SRA’s other priorities set by Government, including better integration with other transport modes, expansion of capacity and promotion of the use of the railway network.

The priorities have been developed taking into account dialogue with the Rail Passengers’ Committee for the North West, the North West Regional Assembly and North West Development Agency, Government Office for the North West and local authorities within the region.

The SRA contributed to the preparation of Regional Planning Guidance for the North West, and the Secretary of State’s proposed changes are expected shortly.

The SRA has also participated in the following Multi Modal Studies:

  • South East Manchester Multi Modal Study (SEMMS)
  • M60 Junction 12 – 18 (JETTS).

National schemes with benefits for the North West:

  • Train Protection and Warning Systems
  • A Company Neutral Revenue Support scheme to be introduced in 2002 for intermodal and ‘less than trainload’ markets
  • Freight Facility Grants
  • Freight Small Schemes Fund
  • Rail Passenger Partnership Fund
  • Incremental Outputs Statements for track & signalling and station enhancements
  • Training through a National Rail Academy
  • National Rail Performance Fund to improve reliability of services
  • National Test Track to prove new rolling stock, before it is tested on the Railtrack network;
  • A programme of improvements for passengers with disabilities to improve station access and special training for staff.


Developments for 2001 – 2002

Service developments

  • Blackburn – Manchester service enhancements funded through Rail Passenger Partnership (subject to final agreement of track access charges with Railtrack).
  • Commitments on Arriva Trains Merseyside (ATM) to introduce an additional three-car train from Autumn 2001, and a second from Summer 2002.
  • The SRA and Merseytravel (Merseyside PTE) are considering a proposal by ATM to recast the Passenger Service Requirement to improve overall performance.

Rolling stock

  • 34 four-car CrossCountry Voyager trains to replace all loco-hauled services by May 2002. Progressive introduction of new trains during Autumn/Winter 2001/02, delivering extra services and greater reliability. Testing of first of 44 tilting five-car Super Voyager trains, which will deliver faster journey times.
  • A total of 53 nine-car, 140 mph, titling Pendolino VWC trains are being constructed by Alstom. Testing of new Pendolino trains on the WCML has begun between Carlisle and Carnforth.
  • Modifications to First North Western Class 323, 142 and 150 trains to enable staff to carry out enhanced on-train customer care and revenue protection duties.
  • Negotiations are underway with Angel Trains, Merseytravel and ATM regarding the refurbishment of the class 507/508 trains currently operated by ATM.
  • Phase two Central Trains class 170 modification programme begun, to improve reliability of the fleet.
  • New air-conditioning units of 72 Central Trains class 158 vehicles.

Franchise negotiations

  • In September 2001, SRA requested by Secretary of State to proceed towards the final stage of the letting of the TransPennine Express franchise. Formal consultations with the 5 PTEs, which have the statutory right to specify services in their respective regions, were completed last year. 3 shortlisted counterparties will shortly be invited to submit revised proposals, taking into consideration any additional requirements emerging from the consultation process. It is intended that the new franchise will be awarded later this year, to commence early next year.


Stations and passenger facilities

  • Upgrade of Preston station platforms 3 and 4 and associated facilities.
  • Completion of station improvements at Manchester Piccadilly.
  • £30m investment by VWC in improving reliability, quality of passenger experience and maintenance provision.
  • Major improvements to stations in Cumbria, and at Ashton-under-Lyne.
  • CCTV installed at 7 FNW stations and progress towards the centralised monitoring of CCTV in the Merseytravel area.

Infrastructure improvements

  • Completion of CrossCountry infrastructure upgrade works at bottlenecks.

Rail Passenger Partnership proposals

The following RPP proposals are currently being assessed:

RPP proposal Status Output
Allerton Interchange Pre-qualification A multi-modal interchange providing access to local bus and local, regional and national rail networks, and a gateway to Liverpool John Lennon Airport
Peak capacity enhancements Under evaluation Optimising the deployment of new additional FNW trains
Cumbria Coast Line Under evaluation A package of measures including doubling of weekday service frequency, improving facilities, customer information services and additional Sunday and late evening services
Windermere Branch Line upgrade Under evaluation Infrastructure enhancements and the provision of 2 trains per hour on the branch
Blackpool North – Manchester Pre-qualification Service enhancements, new hourly off-peak service Blackpool North – Manchester Victoria



IOS Infrastructure

The SRA is supporting, subject to value for money tests, the following incremental improvements to the network in the North West:

IOS infrastructure scheme Main output Key requirement Expected completion date
Manchester Piccadilly – New Mills Central journey time improved journey times 2002
Rochdale – Manchester Victoria – Wigan Wallgate – Southport (via Allerton) journey time improved journey times 2002
Manchester Airport – Nottingham via Stoke-on-Trent capacity regular interval service, running earlier and later 2002
James Street, Liverpool operational flexibility provide additional turnback facilities for use during disruption 2003
Crewe – Nottingham journey time reduced journey time 2006-07
Wigan Wallgate operational flexibility ability to turn back trains from M’cr direction without shunting 2005-06
Hazel Grove – Furness Vale capacity additional trains to Furness vale 2004-05
M’cr Piccadilly – Marple journey time reduced journey time 2002
Blackburn – Manchester capacity Sunday service 2002
Manchester Victoria – Blackburn journey time reduced journey times 2002
Carnforth – Barrow journey time higher line speeds, giving improved journey times 2005-06

Developments 2002-2010

Service developments

  • CrossCountry service frequencies increased from summer 2003 timetable on core routes, to approximately double the present frequencies, with standard ‘clock face’ timetables and shorter journey times.
  • Virgin West Coast frequency improvements to 2 trains per hour London to Manchester.



Rolling stock

  • Bombardier tilting 5-car Super Voyager trains to be introduced by VWC between London, Chester and Holyhead.
  • 42 Pendolino trains expected in service by May 2003, serving London, Manchester, Preston and Liverpool.

Franchise negotiations

  • The present FNW franchise expires in 2004. Services will then move into one of three new franchises:
  • the Northern franchise, with separate business unites to improve local accountability. Expressions of interest have been invited, and tendering will occur early this year.
  • the TranPennine Express franchise, to focus on longer distance fast services and links to Manchester International Airport.
  • the Wales and Borders franchise, which is to be tendered early this year.
  • The present ATM franchise runs to February 2003, with an option to terminate earlier. The SRA is in discussion with Merseytravel and DTLR regarding a possible transfer of responsibility to Merseytravel, and reviewing initiatives that facilitate development of the Merseyside Local Transport Plan; expressions of interest in the new franchise have been invited.
  • The Central Trains franchise is due to expire in 2004. The SRA is looking at the possibility of a two year extension, aimed at achieving an early increase in capacity.

Infrastructure improvements

  • 125 mph operation (present top speed is 110 mph) on VWC services, giving reduced journey times.
  • WCML infrastructure upgrade and renewal works to deliver increased capacity, higher line speeds, improved reliability and performance.
  • Remodelling and resignalling at Manchester, for higher speeds and reliability.
  • The new TPE franchise will look at opportunities for new rolling stock and depot facilities; more frequent express services on key routes; and addition of new destinations to the TPE network
  • Manchester Airport Ground Transport Interchange, including the provision of additional platform capacity.
  • Cross-Manchester capacity including Victoria station, Piccadilly approaches, Ordsall Chord and flyover.



Southampton – West Midlands Felixstowe – Nuneaton. Works to provide increased capacity and increased structure gauge clearances to allow rail to handle 9’6″ containers and European swapbodies more effectively, linking the two largest container ports in Britain with the West Midlands.

Freight Small Schemes Fund

The SRA has created a Freight Small Schemes Fund, which will provide £300m over ten years, to secure small and medium sized freight infrastructure schemes which would be particularly valuable improvements to the network, and can be delivered quickly, within a fixed annual budget.

The table below lists some schemes which will benefit the North West currently under consideration for such funds, and the outputs and potential delivery time scales they offer. Other schemes will also be in competition for these funds, which will be available throughout the period to 2010.

Scheme Outputs Potential delivery timescales from approval
Caldon Low Branch
  • rail connection to large quarry and cement works located at Caldon Low
3 years
Buxton up reception siding
  • facilitates economically viable train lengths to/from Hindlow/Dowlow branch
1 year
Basford Hall
  • equips Crewe with 775m train length capability
3 years
Carlisle Yard
  • lengthening of sidings to accommodate 775m trains
3 years

TransPennine upgrades: South Humberside, Hope Valley, Diggle and Manchester

The SRA intends to develop and implement the following:

  • Increase in the availability of freight paths in the order of 30% to/from ports at Immingham, Grimsby, and Killingholme
  • Incremental improvements to capacity, speed and route availability for freight trains on the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester
  • Gauge clearance to W10 or W12 on the North TransPennine Route between Leeds and Manchester, including connections to ports and terminals
  • Development of freight diversionary routes around central Manchester

Improvements on the capacity-constrained Hope Valley line will provide more freight paths, faster transits and greater reliability, which also provide benefits for passenger operators. Subject to further detailed, work, diversion of freight away from central Manchester will both deliver additional capacity and free passenger paths on central Manchester corridors (Victoria and Piccadilly – Deansgate).

Developments 2002 – 2005

Outputs Expected completion date
Hope Valley incremental speed and route availability improvements. 2002 – 04

Developments 2005 – 2010

Output Expected completion date
Manchester diversionary options. 2008 -9

Other Schemes

The SRA is supporting, subject to value of money tests, incremental improvements to the network, designed to improve capability and capacity for freight.

IOS infrastructure scheme Main output Key requirement Expected completion date
Olive Mount Chord operational flexibility Reopen for freight traffic. 2002 – 03

The table below identifies key routes where initial/further feasibility work will commence in 2002 – 2003, and the potential before 2005 and 2010.

Schemes Developments 2002 – 2005 Developments 2005 – 2010
West Coast: capacity for freight growth North of Crewe
  • Enhancement to enable freight levels to grow when passenger service levels are increased under WCRM
  • Enhancement to created through paths North and South of Crewe

Greater Manchester capacity study

The SRA, in partnership with Railtrack, GMPTE, Manchester International Airport and the Highways Agency, has completed the Greater Manchester Strategic Rail Study, which sets out a strategy for the development of the rail network in Greater Manchester over the next 20 years. The first key building block, the creation of a TransPennine Express franchise, is currently underway. The partners in the study are now considering how best to take forward long term options, including the expansion of light rail on the heavy rail network.

Long Term (Beyond 2010)

Beyond 2010, the role of the railways will become even more important, and the key network capacity issues will have to be addressed. In particular, this involves:

  • High Speed Line. Additional capacity between London, the North of England and Scotland for both freight and passenger services; to include consideration of a new line with a high speed capability, and provision of capacity for more north – south rail freight movements;
  • West Midlands/Manchester Capacity. Relief of congestion with new infrastructure in regional centres such as Birmingham and Manchester;
  • Multimodal Studies. Development and of rail projects identified in the Multi-modal studies;