The boss of one of the region’s main rail operators has described the timetable change being introduced next month as “one of the biggest the North has seen”.
TransPennine Express (TPE) will be running fast trains every 15 minutes between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester with journey times of 46 minutes, three minutes quicker than the current fastest route.
These changes represent a significant downgrading of the already very poor, one train an hour to Hull.Rail development consultant Dave Walford
The express services will go into Manchester Victoria, rather than Manchester Piccadilly as current services do, and officials have warned passengers to plan for the “significant changes”.
The operator will be running six trains an hour in total across the Pennines after taking over a service currently run by Northern with a faster diesel train, though the total number of hourly trains between Leeds and Manchester will remain at eight.
Politicians and business leaders in Hull have criticised the changes for ‘downgrading’ TPE’s service from the city to Manchester, as the new service to Manchester Piccadilly will make four extra stops and be up to four minutes slower.
Rail development consultant Dave Walford said: “These changes represent a significant downgrading of the already very poor, one train an hour to Hull.
The journey times will be slower, with far more stops and still no direct service from Hull to Manchester Airport or Liverpool. This is in stark contrast to massive improvements along with tens of millions of pounds of investments to other TPE routes.”
Hull North MP Diana Johnson said: “It’s disappointing that on the first day of Transport for the North’s official operation Hull sees a downgrading of the East-West connectivity that the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is supposed to improve.”
TPE, which is publishing the new timetable today, says people in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester will benefit from “improved connectivity, new journey opportunities and enhanced reliability” when the changes are introduced.
The company says it has invested £30m in refurbishing its rolling stock, meaning that by May 20 the vast majority of its trains in Yorkshire will have free wi-fi, free media streaming and plug sockets.
And from this autumn, new trains which are currently being tested in the Czech Republic will be introduced on the service from Leeds to Manchester. TPE says it is introducing new trains on two other fleets in the coming months, meaning that from next year it will have the newest trains in the country and extra capacity for passengers.
Managing director Leo Goodwin said: “This is one of the biggest timetable changes the North has seen and will deliver real benefits for customers, whether travelling for work or leisure.
“Customers in this part of the world are already benefitting from a £32m overhaul of our train fleet to like-new standard with the on-board experience having been totally transformed.”