As part of Network Rail’s £1 billion, 25-year “Railway Upgrade Plan” there are 7 projects that form the “Great North Rail Project” sub-project which is intended to be complete by 2022 – only 4 years from now. They include:
- Liverpool City Region upgrade
- Manchester to Preston improvements
- Preston to Blackpool North
- Transpennine Route upgrade
- West Yorkshire signalling upgrade
- Ordsall Chord
- Calder Valley improvements
These seven projects are highlighted as the infrastructure improvements in the north of England. Fair enough, Network Rail doing infrastructure work – but these projects seem to suggest Network Rail may be providing new trains – in particular there is a reference to those trains as part of the “Railway Upgrade Plan”.
The key benefits include longer, faster, more frequent trains; a better, more reliable infrastructure; and better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.
To be fair, and maybe I am being picky but isn’t it the job of the rolling stock leasing companies to buy and offer the new trains to the train operating companies – Transpennine, Northern Rail, etc. – not Network Rail. Or perhaps since the physical infrastructure is being upgraded, is this going to be a first step towards re-nationalisation?
However, amongst the key projects of this grand plan, electrification is being progressed – yet not in the North. The new “Azuma” trains have already encountered a problem, since the East Coast Main Line franchise is soon to be terminated, so they may not enter service at all, or be delayed, or under a publicly owned railway. Similarly, Network Rail indicate that HS2 is one of their key projects – but I thought this was another privately funded scheme.
So where are we today? There is still a lot of infrastructure work to be completed before Blackpool can be reached by a new electric train service, and Liverpool Lime Street is being closed in the summer for a couple of months, and the Chorley “Flying Arches” appear to be uplifted.
Here are a few snaps of work in progress in the North West: