Almost £4bn ($5bn) will be invested into the Transpennine rail route in northern England according to an announcement by the UK Government as part of its Network North plan.
The £3.9bn funding announced by Rail Minister Huw Merriman will be used as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and York encompassing a range of upgrades and improvements to the rail network to improve efficiency and increase services.
However, there is doubt in the UK rail industry over the source of the “new” investment. The Railway Industry Association described the announcement as a “restatement” of already-announced spending.
The reconfirmed investment adds to the £3bn already spent on the project towards improvements such as the electrification of the track and the beginning of work to install digital signalling along the route, with further funding expected from the Department for Transport (DfT) in the coming years to reach the projected £11.5bn cost of the TRU.
Merriman said: “The Transpennine Route Upgrade represents the first major step in delivering transformed east-west connectivity in the north and I’m delighted to announce this multi-billion-pound funding boost to move to the next stage of delivery.”
Though the TRU existed before the government announced its Network North plan, the latest funding is being included as part of a commitment to northern rail networks made after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the high-speed HS2 project.
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As part of this, in addition to the funding announcement, the government also revealed it would be bringing Bradford and Hull into the wider Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme, using “savings from HS2”, highlighting the recently announced new station planned for Bradford.
The DfT also said that the funding would support rail operator Transpennine Express, brought under state control earlier in 2023, in engaging with possible suppliers for up to 29 new trains for its fleet to replace existing diesel trains.
Neil Holm, managing director for the TRU, said: “This commitment by the government to our programme allows us to move two of our largest projects from design into construction and delivery. It brings us one big step closer to delivering the future of rail travel in the North of England.”
However, despite the impressive figure being highlighted by the government in its announcement, the Railway Industry Association has expressed doubts about the newness of the funding, which forms part of existing commitments towards the TRU.
Chief Executive Darren Caplan said: “Today’s restatement of previously announced funding for the Transpennine Route Upgrade is a welcome confirmation that the programme will continue to progress. However, as far as we understand this is not new money for rail and is not a new pipeline opportunity for rail suppliers.
“As the Government itself would say, TRU has been under development for more than a decade and is a key component of the 2021 Integrated Rail Plan for the North & Midlands and the Network North plan announced in October this year.”