A major overhaul of the rail network in northern England could be finalised by the end of the year after Transport for the North released its debut annual report on improving the region’s infrastructure.
A project dubbed Northern Powerhouse Rail involving the construction of new lines to link cities including Sheffield and Manchester is at the centre of the plans, unveiled by the Department for Transport yesterday.
In its report, TfN said that projects would be firmed up by the end of the year, with design and development starting by 2017.
The plans also include “substantial upgrade” work on lines between cities such as Leeds and Newcastle and Leeds and Hull.
The recommendations come as part of TfN’s first annual report setting out the priorities for connectivity in the North.
TfN was set up last March as part of the chancellor George Osborne’s plan to devolve power to regions.
A feasibility study is now being carried out by TfN, with preferred options set to be released later this year or in early 2017.
Northern Powerhouse Rail is its marquee rail project and one of the organisation’s four transport priorities set out in yesterday’s report.
A TransPennine road tunnel linking Manchester to Sheffield, the upgrading of east-west roads across the northern Pennines, and improvements to the M60 outside of Manchester have all been put forward by the group as schemes that are crucial to enhancing connectivity across the North.
Northern Powerhouse Rail proposed network
Source: Transport for the North
Plans for the northern Pennines upgrades and M60 improvements are expected to be finalised in October, with the route for the £6bn TransPennine tunnel expected to be chosen later in the autumn.
The release of the report comes just days before a National Infrastructure Commission report also looking into northern connectivity is expected to be released ahead of next week’s Budget.
TfN chairman John Cridland said: “Our vision to rebalance the economy will greatly benefit residents of the north and the UK as a whole. Looking to the future we will build on our research, which is underpinned by the first independent economic review for the North, to devise a prioritised investment programme.”
Chancellor George Osborne said: “John Cridland and his team have made enormous progress in the last year and this is a welcome report which shows both the improvements we have already made across the Northern Powerhouse as well as highlighting the potential to go much further.”