The Ordsall Chord connects Victoria, Oxford Road and Piccadilly. Credit: Network Rail.
The arches of the Ordsall Chord being craned into place. Credit: Network Rail.
The rail line between Preston and Blackpool will also be upgraded. Credit: MCP Environmental.
An old bridge in Burnley was replaced with a new one. Credit: J Murphy and Sons Limited.

Great North Rail Project (GNRP) involves a series of upgrades to the railway network across the north of England.

Estimated to cost £13bn ($18bn), the project is being implemented by Network Rail to enhance the reliability and capacity of rail services and reduce congestion and journey times across the rail network.

The major components of the project include upgrades to the west Yorkshire signalling, Transpennine route, Liverpool City Region and Calder Valley.

Other elements such as electrification of the north-west railway line, upgrades to the track between Manchester and Preston, and installation of Ordsall Chord rail bridge also form part of the project.

North-west electrification programme

An estimated £1bn ($1.4bn) is being invested in the electrification of key routes across the network to provide better connectivity, faster journey times and improved capacity. More than 300km of the rail line will be electrified to improve connectivity between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool.

The electrification project is being executed in four phases. The first phase was completed in December 2013. It involved the installation of 25kV, 50Hz overhead electrification between Manchester and Newton-le-Willows.

The railway lines between Huyton and Wigan, Preston and Blackpool, Manchester and Stalybridge, Manchester Victoria and Preston, and Manchester, and Leeds and York are also being electrified under the scheme.

Ordsall Chord rail bridge construction

The construction of the 300m-long Ordsall Chord bridge began in October 2015. The £85m railway bridge connects Manchester’s key stations including Victoria, Oxford Road and Piccadilly. It offers a new direct link between the north of England and Manchester Airport.

Built over River Irwell, the new asymmetric rail bridge was inaugurated in November 2017.

Details of GNRP upgrades

The upgrade of the two-track Calder Valley line connecting Manchester Victoria with Leeds in west Yorkshire is being executed in two phases. The first phase was completed in October 2018 while the second phase is scheduled for completion in October 2018.

The track and signalling system between Manchester Victoria and Littleborough was upgraded and a new 135m-long bay platform was constructed at Rochdale station during the first phase.

The second phase involves the upgrade of Bradford Mill Lane and Hebden Bridge stations. It also includes the renewal of the signalling system between Huddersfield and Bradford. Rail services on the improved Calder Valley line are expected to commence from December 2018.

Modern signalling technology will be installed at Pudsey, Bradford, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Shepley as part of the west Yorkshire signalling upgrade project.

“The £340m Liverpool City Region upgrade involves the renovation of Liverpool Lime Street, the Halton Curve project and a new Maghull North station.”

The Transpennine route upgrade project will provide faster, longer and more frequent rail services across the north of England, from Manchester Victoria to Leeds and Selby / York.

The upgrade covers 122km of track, eight tunnels, 13 viaducts and 25 stations. It is intended to serve the increasing passenger traffic which is set to double in the next 20 years.

The project includes the upgrade of bridges, tunnels, track, junctions and signalling. Approximately 38 level crossings along the route will be assessed and overhead line equipment will be installed for the operation of electric trains.

The £340m Liverpool City Region upgrade involves the renovation of Liverpool Lime Street, the Halton Curve project and a new Maghull North station.

The upgrade project will enable three additional services to pass through Lime Street each hour, including new direct trains to Scotland from 2019.

The phase 1 of the upgrade was completed in October 2017 while phase 2 works will commence in summer 2018.

The replacement of 2km of track and installation of a modern signalling system was completed during the first phase. Existing platforms were lengthened and new platforms were also constructed.

Great North Rail Project benefits

The project will provide more frequent and reliable passenger services, and shorten journey times. It will also enable the operation of electric trains, and larger trains across the rail network.

The electrification of lines will support quieter, cleaner and greener trains, which aims to enhance the customer experience.

Contractors involved in GNRP

An alliance of Network Rail, J Murphy and Sons, VolkerRail, and Siemens was awarded a contract to upgrade the Transpennine route between York and Leeds, in October 2014.

An alliance of Network Rail, Amey, BAM Nuttall and Arup was chosen to perform upgrades in the west of Leeds.

Buckingham Group secured a contract for the Calder Valley upgrade and also subcontracted Railway Electrical Services for the installation of passenger information system (PIS), PA speakers and CCTV systems.

MCP Environmental secured a contract from J Murphy and Sons to upgrade the rail line between Preston and Blackpool.

Network Rail, Murphy and Story teams were contracted to replace an old bridge in Burnley Barracks.

Parsons Brinckerhoff was contracted to offer programme management and multi-disciplinary rail engineering design services for the north-west electrification project.