UK rail operator Network Rail has announced a 20-year rail plan for Northern England that will double its number of fast and semi-fast train services.

The plan, set out in a manifesto called ‘A bright future for rail in the north’, includes providing high-speed rail services to major cities in the north as well as reducing journey times by 2020.

The plan is aimed at diverting people to rail from roads as well as accommodating the increasing passenger journeys, expected to rise by 44% on the Liverpool-Manchester route and by 50% on the Yorkshire-Humber route in peak hour travel by 2018.

The operator will begin its new strategy in 2010 when it publishes a report in January 2010 called ‘Northern Route Utilisation Strategy’, which will identify the best use for the network and examine the business case for dedicated high-speed lines to Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.

The operator says the network could benefit the region by £12-16m over the next 60 years.

Work on the plan is being assisted by train operators Northern and First TransPennine Express.