Rail upgrade is ‘really bad news’ for area, says transport expert

A TRANSPORT expert says the planned £589 million upgrade of the Trans-Pennine rail route is ‘really bad news’ for passengers at Greenfield and Mossley.

The Government recently announced the upgrade, which will bring improvements including electrification and doubling the number of tracks on the most congested sections around Leeds and Huddersfield.

Greenfield train station

The money will be spent across the north of England but much of it on electrifying the line between Manchester and Leeds, confirmed the Department for Transport.

However, Dr Richard Knowles, an Emeritus Professor of Transport Geography at Salford University who lives in Greenfield, believes the plans will bring no benefit but massive disruption locally.

He said: “This upgrade will only electrify and increase track capacity on the two sections of route between Manchester and Stalybridge and between Huddersfield and Leeds, with no investment or benefits for local services or passengers using local stations between Stalybridge and Huddersfield.

“It is likely instead to cause years of chaos for local passengers as it will frequently disrupt services calling at Greenfield, Mossley, Marsden and Slaithwaite during construction because of temporary line closures. It is really bad news for residents of Saddleworth and Mossley.

“This so-called ‘upgrade’ is just one-fifth (£589 million) of the £3 billion upgrade for the whole Trans-Pennine rail route announced by Government in 2017 but never implemented.

“The bulk remains uncommitted and will now be reconsidered by the Government and Transport for the North in an Integrated Rail Plan due to be published in December.

“Even if this additional investment is eventually approved, it is unlikely to commence until 2025 or later and take several years to implement.

“This means that at best, passengers using Greenfield, Mossley, Marsden and Slaithwaite stations are likely to have to wait until the late 2020s at the earliest for electrified and more reliable train services and fully accessible stations.”

Mark Ashmore, chair of the Greenfield Rail Action Group (GRAG), welcomed the restatement of the funding but raised concerns over some of the plans.

He said: “Supporters of GRAG and all rail users across the north will have welcomed the Government’s restatement of its commitment to the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade and the release of almost £600 million.

Mossley Train Station“What is of great concern is the statement’s ambiguity. Grant Shapps (the Transport Secretary) first states ‘most of the line will be electrified’ and implies the 16 miles between Stalybridge and Huddersfield will not be.

“Yet he then goes on to state ‘these improvements will allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle’.

“I, along with many others, are at a loss to understand how an electric train will be able to run from Manchester to Leeds and beyond when there is no current plan to electrify such a long section.

“In addition, I am very concerned that the proposed work between Huddersfield, Leeds and York as well as between Stalybridge and Victoria will greatly disrupt the extra peak period trains at Greenfield that provide the half-hourly service.

“The only good news is that because the hourly service at Greenfield is self-contained then there is no reason why, with careful planning, that service should not be able to run reliably.

“What I find most concerning is that without a significant upgrade of the line between Stalybridge and Huddersfield this section will become the new bottleneck for all trains between Manchester and Leeds so potentially preventing the much needed improvements to the train frequency at Greenfield station.

“Grant Shapps has promised to publish an Integrated Rail Plan for the North of England in December and this needs to address all these issues.

“GRAG will continue to press for full electrification of the Trans-Pennine Route as part of the Government’s Green Agenda.”

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