Trans-Pennine rail £2.9bn upgrade will cause five years of route closures, longer journeys and less capacity

A letter from Network Rail to the Transport Secretary sets out some of the potential outcomes of the proposed Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU), and the potential disruption during a construction period of five years.

 “Communities at Ravensthorpe, Mirfield, Batley, Dewsbury, Marsden and Slaithwaite would be hugely affected as many rail services would need to become bus replacements”.

“This is attempt to test public and political reaction”.

“I am disappointed that there was not a formal briefing for MPs in whose constituencies construction work will take place.

“The same tactic of drip feeding bad news has already been used to lower expectations regarding the full electrification of the line, which was initially promised by the Conservative government.

“My initial concern is that the inevitably extensive construction work in the Colne Valley will hit our services and disrupt the wider community.

“It is my hope, however, that we will see every effort being made to schedule work so that this stretch is closed for the minimum period of time whilst trains by-pass our stations.

“Potentially, the upgrade is positive, if it delivers a modern railway providing improved capacity, frequency and reliability.

“This must deliver these benefits for passengers from Huddersfield, Slaithwaite and Marsden, rather than being exclusively focused on passengers travelling between Manchester and Leeds.”

[Thelma Walker, Colne Valley MP]

“In the long term this will bring real benefits but in the short term it could cause a lot of grief because of the scale of building work taking place.

“We would hope they would do some proper consultation with local politicians, and more importantly with the wider community, before anything is decided.

“What I worry about is because we are on the fringes of Leeds and Manchester, when decisions are made the emphasis is on the passengers from the big cities and not enough consideration is given to us.

“It’s clear from the May timetable scandal that people from Slaithwaite and Marsden have probably suffered more than anybody else.

“We’ve already been let down in terms of what was promised.

“I’ve seen people in tears on the platforms when their trains don’t turn up.

“We’ve heard of people getting their wages docked £20 every time they’re late.

“It’s vital we get more people on trains and less in cars, but at the moment it’s going the other way.”

[Cllr Rob Walker, Chair of SMART]

[Article from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday 13 September 2018, follows]

 Trans-Pennine rail £2.9bn upgrade will cause five years of route closures, longer journeys and less capacity

The £2.9bn upgrade of trans-Pennine rail repeatedly promoted by Chris Grayling will cause “significant disruption” for five years, including route closures for up to 39 weeks a year, longer journey times and less seats on trains, a senior transport official has said.

A letter from Rob McIntosh, a route managing director at Network Rail, to the Transport Secretary, describes the disruption that could be caused if the project is to be completed by 2024.

The document, which has emerged online, also says attempting to make further improvements “would add additional risk to the programme”, although it is understood that parts of the line will be electrified, but not the entire route.

Mr Grayling has repeatedly highlighted the Government’s £2.9bn investment in upgrades to the Victorian railway, which has long been blighted by delays and a lack of capacity, peaking this summer during the timetabling chaos.

Mr McIntosh said the work would eventually “transform” passengers’ experience between York, Leeds and Manchester through “significantly” reduced journey times, more capacity on trains, and upgrades to stations along the route.

But he warned it “cannot be delivered without significant disruption” due to having to upgrade an old railway in the “inherently challenging” landscape of the Pennines.

Network Rail will carry out the works to minimise disruption around key seasonal economies such as tourism, university terms and Christmas markets, “but delivering this level of investment to ensure value is maximised cannot be done without disruption”.

Trains will be diverted through other routes such as through the Calder Valley, but

“in practice to achieve the improvements we are seeking we will need to close some part of this (trans-Pennine) route for up to 39 weeks per year between 2020 and 2024,”

Mr McIntosh said.

“This will see journey times increase by 15 to 25 minutes and also constrain capacity over the period.”

Commenting on the letter, Mr McIntosh told The Yorkshire Post:

“The message for me is that delivering £3bn of investment on one of the most contested parts of the network is going to be disruptive to local communities, economies and passengers.

“What we have put forward we think delivers the best benefits and outcomes for passengers in the shortest time scales while maintaining the connectivity of the community. “

Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake said disruption was unfortunately inevitable with works “of that magnitude” while suggesting Ministers could ask Network Rail to potentially shorten the timescale.

The revelations also highlight the lack of other routes across the Pennines and the need to get on with building Northern Powerhouse Rail across the region by 2032, he said.

Mr Hollinrake added:

“The Treasury and the Department for Transport (DfT) seem very supportive (of that idea), they are waiting for this business case from Transport for the North which we think will be with us by the end of the year, but I’m still hoping for a Budget commitment for that nevertheless to say ‘all being well with the business case we’re going to support it’.”

The Department for Transport said the improvements were being phased over five years to “keep disruption to a minimum”.

A spokeswoman said:

“We are investing £13bn in transport in the north, and are planning to invest £3 billion upgrading the trans-Pennine route – one third of our budget for rail upgrades between 2019-24. This is our biggest planned investment project in the next five years, and will reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve stations.

“We are working closely with Network Rail and Transport for the North to deliver these vital improvements that passengers want and deserve as quickly as possible. However, we also want to keep disruption to a minimum, which is why the upgrade will be delivered in phases from Spring 2019.”

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