FIRST the good news. Rail travellers can expect some quicker services – and new trains – between Leeds and Manchester as a result of the latest timetable changes announced by rail operator TransPennine Express. The question is whether they are reliable, punctual and meet the route’s capacity needs.
Now the bad news. The promise of “enhanced connectivity” means more stops on many services and longer journey times, especially on trains from Hull and Brough to the North West. The direct services that previously ran from East Yorkshire to Manchester Airport, and also Liverpool, have not been reinstated.
Far from these changes marking a watershed for trans-Pennine travel after political and public pressure exposed Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s complacency and contempt for this region, many will be left with an inferior service at odds with the agenda set out when Transport for the North met for the first time yesterday.
Of course it should be pointed out that train operators, and organisations like Northern Rail, are having to make the most of Victorian infrastructure, particularly the Pennine tunnels, which limits the number of services that can run at any one time.
Yet, given the ideal scenario is high-frequency fast trains operating between the region’s major cities, and also regular services which serve other stations along the whole route from Hull to Liverpool, the economic case for a new line is already a compelling one.
It’s backed by Lord Adonis, the former head of the National Infrastructure Commission, who has urged this region’s leaders to come up with a plan by the end of the year. They need to if rail services are to ever get back on track in the North.