Northern rail set for study

Major improvements to rail routes and infrastructure around Manchester are to be the focus of a government study that aims to increase rail capacity in the north.

Network Rail will look at how better access to Manchester Airport and northern ports can be used to deal with a rail bottleneck. Transport minister Rosie Winterton announced the study last week on a Manchester visit.

"Following the strategy set out in this summer's rail white paper, I want to pursue the idea of a Manchester hub as a priority. This will help to unlock more of the region's economic power," explained Winterton

"The Network Rail study will provide us with more details of how and when this can be done, what infrastructure will be required and at what cost."

The study will examine proposals from the Northern Way for engineering work to enable trains to run between Manchester's Victoria and Piccadilly stations. It will look at plans for a flyover to give trains from Ardwick direct access to Piccadilly.

Northern Way steering group chairman Neville Chamberlain said: "We have been pressing the Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail to carry out a detailed feasibility study on the Manchester hub. This is a top priority."

Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese said the plans would boost services for passengers and freight between critical points. "We will play a full role in the planning process," he maintained. A DfT spokesman added that no timescale had been set for the study.

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