Trans-Pennine modernisation: new Mk 5a stock for TPE at Washwood Heath on 15 June 2018 while en route from Portbury dock to Manchester.
John Whitehouse

TRANSPORT SECRETARY Chris Grayling has said the upgrade on the trans-Pennine route between Manchester and York will be ‘a rolling programme of enhancements, including both major civil engineering projects and electrification’.

Writing to Railway Industry Association Chief Executive Darren Caplan, Mr Grayling said the project would be ‘the biggest single investment’ made during Control Period 6 (2019-24).

‘The key to delivering improved journey times on what is a very circuitous route through the Pennines involves rebuilding and relaying most of the track bed from Manchester to York’ Mr Grayling wrote. ‘We are awaiting Network Rail’s final project plan, but we have instructed them to prioritise those elements which bring the quickest passenger benefits. This will include things like straightening lengths of track to improve linespeed’.

Modern Railways understands there has been a high level of lobbying from freight operators, keen to make more use of the route, which has included calls for electrification and additional tracks or loops to enable freight trains to operate alongside an intensive passenger service. Previous suggestions that the Department for Transport was favouring ‘discontinuous electrification’ for the route may now be discounted following concerns this would require the use of diesel power through some of the more attractive countryside across the Pennines whilst precluding the use of electric traction for freight services.

Mr Grayling said Network Rail is working with DfT and Transport for the North to determine the best way to roll out these improvements, with the final project plan expected later this year ahead of the start of works in the spring.