Northern Powerhouse Rail: Calls for 'more direct route' that is cheaper to deliver

An MP is urging the Government to adopt “an alternative proposal” for Northern Powerhouse Rail, claiming it would be cheaper and easier to deliver.

Tory MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Jack Brereton said a line could be built along a “shorter route” between Liverpool and Leeds, with a through station in Manchester.

Under the original proposal, around 40 miles of new lines were going to be built between Warrington and Marsden, in West Yorkshire.

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But Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) services were also going to share 24km of HS2 railway line between Manchester Piccadilly and High Legh (to the west).

MP Jack BreretonMP Jack Brereton
MP Jack Brereton

When the northern leg of HS2 was scrapped in October, the Government said it would still provide £12bn to “allow the delivery of NPR as previously planned”.

However, rail consultant Trevor Parkin has claimed lines could be built along “a far more direct route” between Liverpool and Leeds, via Manchester.

Speaking to MPs in November, he said it is more “sensible” than building “a turnback station where trains have to pull into Manchester Piccadilly and pull out in the opposite direction”.

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Mr Brereton, who sits on Parliament’s Transport Committee, urged the Government to adopt Mr Parkin’s proposal during a debate in Parliament yesterday.

Picture by Bruce RollinsonPicture by Bruce Rollinson
Picture by Bruce Rollinson

“A different, shorter route which could offer a much more viable solution to NPR,” he said. “This could mean delivering NPR sooner, with greater benefit and at a third of the cost currently proposed.”

Plans for a multi-billion rail network that would increase capacity and cut journey times were outlined two years ago in the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), which said new passengers would begin travelling on the new high-speed lines in “the early-mid 2040s”.

But those proposals are now being updated after Rishi Sunak decided to scrap the second phase of HS2 and spend £36bn on hundreds of other transport projects.

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The Department of Transport said it is drawing up a business case for NPR, which will set out the route, a budget and a timeline.

It is now looking to upgrade and electrify lines across the region, running from Liverpool to Hull, and exploring plans to build high-speed rail lines between Warrington and Marsden.

Mr Sunak has also promised to connect Bradford to the NPR network by building a line which runs into a new station in the city.

According to the plan, it will allow passengers to travel from Manchester to Bradford, via Huddersfield, in just 30 minutes.

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The Government has previously refused to deliver Transport for the North’s plan for a £43bn NPR network, with new high-speed lines running between Liverpool and Leeds, via Bradford, claiming it offered poor value for money.