Posted 26th March 2024 | 7 Comments

Primary option announced for NPR route between Liverpool and Manchester

The route of Northern Powerhouse Rail is set to include Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Airport, following extensive discussions between the Department for Transport and local leaders in the north west, including MPs.

The DfT said it was announcing the ‘next steps’ for NPR between Liverpool and Manchester, and that the Warrington-Manchester Airport route is now the ‘primary option’.

However, it is not yet definite. The Government said it will ‘continue to assess alternatives which meet the objectives of Northern Powerhouse Rail, in line with standard requirements for business case approvals’.

It continued: ‘Any scheme must be affordable and demonstrate value for money for the taxpayer, while seeking to support the rail capacity needs of central Manchester and deliver faster journey times and better connectivity across the North.’

It added that capacity could also be trebled between Liverpool and Leeds, offering 2,100 extra seats an hour in each direction.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: ‘Today we are setting out the next steps for how we can transform east-west rail links in the North, helping to boost economic growth between key Northern cities as part of our Network North plan.

‘I thank local leaders and local MPs for sharing their views and facilitating constructive conversations. I have heard a clear consensus which means we can now take another crucial step towards delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail, part of this Government’s plan to boost rail capacity, deliver faster journey times and offer better connectivity across the North.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Greg T, London

    4 platforms at the S side of "Piccadilly" station, in Manchester is a necessity - 4-tracking, if possible (??) between there & the Salford curve junction(s) would be expensive, but would also improve matters.

  • John Porter , Leeds

    There is indeed an unmet latent demand for Bolton, Salford, Rochdale etc. to the Midlands/ Greater London through services. DfT & HS2 are reluctant to meet that as through trains affect predicted reliability. They have however accepted the idea of Birmingham to Manchester HS2 trains going beyond Manchester as part of NPR coordination (possibly with NPR branding).
    What is needed is updated clarity beyond their “provisional HS2 Train Service Specifications” (TSS). Two years ago their Phase1 TSS showed 10 paths -
    3 served Birmingham, 3 served Manchester, 1 served Scotland, 1 served Liverpool, 1 divided at Crewe for Liverpool & Preston and 1 served Macclesfield via Stafford & Stoke.
    So as the Scottish services need extra allowance for late running and the rest 25 minutes turnaround time, one spare path is available with HS2’s initial plans for 6 platforms - perhaps a Preston via Bolton, Manchester & Birmingham Interchange service.
    At the now paused HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee, Manchester argued for some HS2 or NPR trains to go on to improve rail connectivity for communities further north. My suggested combined turnback near Piccadilly emerging at Ordsall would allow TransPennine’s Scottish services to be upgraded and serve Manchester Airport and Liverpool OR Birmingham. I favour the latter as that reduces the need for WCML to go beyond Carlisle or Blackpool.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    Indeed, the separateness of services to / from Piccadilly and to / from Victoria , reliant on trams or taxis to link them together , is a "mirror" of the current situation for London. At one stage , not long ago, there were a handful of trains running from points south of the capital to the Midlands and North , utilising the West London line through Kensington Olympia. One of the problems with geographically defined operators is that any new initiatives involving the development of new "cross boundary " services are discouraged. I am aware that there is probably an unmet latent demand for Bolton, Salford, Rochdale, etc. to the Midlands / greater London through services.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    Some years ago, I had the need to use Manchester Piccadilly a few times. It seemed this was seperated from the central shops / businesses / restaurants by Piccadilly Gardens, whilst Victoria had no equivalent "barrier" , with service to Rochdale, Burnley and Blackburn for easy connection from the South. I expect the current situation helps "cut off " a whole area to the north of Central Manchester from London , Birmingham, etc. I may , of course be mistaken , in which case , I stand corrected.
    [The two termini are only a tram ride apart, of course, just as nearly all London main line stations are connected by the Underground. The stillborn ‘Picc-Vic’ tunnel would have linked Piccadilly and Victoria even more effectively.--Ed.]

  • John Porter , Leeds

    Most Manchester passengers want to alight near to Piccadilly and see Victoria Station as a niche destination. Oxford Road & Deansgate stations are seen as well sited as Victoria. Hence the current emphasis is on how to justify 4 subsurface platforms at Piccadilly, to allow some HS2 or NPR trains to go on to serve Halifax and the Calder Valley or Burnley etc, as advocated by Manchester at the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee. That is cheaper than a 6 platform arrangement, but requires a junction for a turnback facility, well before trains have reached full speed. The turnback cost represents almost the full cost difference between a subsurface and above ground station at Piccadilly. Work is underway to find the optimum location and my solution is to design the turnback so that it can ultimately be used by Bolton, Preston and Scotland services. That combined facility near Piccadilly allowing trains to emerge at Ordsall would allow TransPennine’s Scottish services to eventually be upgraded and serve Manchester Airport. Fast Liverpool to Sheffield services via Ordsall could also follow. Increasing Sheffield & Airport connectivity is a key aim of NPR. The main tunnel should be designed for NPR or HS2 trains from Birmingham & Liverpool to serve Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York & Hull - generating extra Airport, London & Birmingham bound patronage.

  • david C smith, Bletchley

    As the "lynchpin" of many trans - Manchester schemes is either expensive tunneling, or using the congested lines through Oxford Road statiom, could a substantially cheaper solution be the Stockport - Manchester Victoria via Denton line, suitably brought up to requirements?

    We could even see a bit of competition for Avanti, for example, with some trains from Scotland extending via Denton to Euston ( giving direct trains from Bolton, Salford Central and North Manchester to the South , for one thing ) ?

  • John Porter , Leeds

    This good news article mentions meaningful choices expected by DfT after the General Election. It is surprisingly conciliatory about “further options for station design at Manchester Piccadilly and …station options…. subject, as usual, to affordability within the funding envelope, standard business case approvals.”

    My favoured option would be to extend HS2 services further north via 4 underground platforms at Piccadilly as Manchester argued at the Hybrid Bill Committee. Its business case is well worth investigating based on
    # 3 or 4 fast HS2 services to Euston - with 5 to 7 minutes loading/dividing time at Piccadilly,
    # 6 or 4 Liverpool services and
    # 2 Birmingham services.
    All calling at Manchester Airport.
    To minimise the number of underground platforms needed, some trains could serve Bolton and Preston. Others could serve Halifax and the Calder Valley. MOST could serve Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York & Hull.

    One could avoid dividing trains, if the Euston services use 12 coach HS2 sets supplemented as required by half hourly extra Old Oak and Birmingham Interchange services. That would maximise capacity and connectivity at peak times, but not initially require extra HS2 rolling stock sets.

    A cheaper but much less ambitious option would build 6 new aboveground Piccadilly platforms as proposed in HS2’s Hybrid Bill and reverse SOME services there to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York & Hull.

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