Network Rail’s programme sponsor Graham Botham has hailed the government’s backing of the £85m Ordsall Chord – a stretch of rail linking Victoria and Piccadilly stations in Manchester – as “tremendously good news” for the region.
But he stressed that it was only the first step in delivering the Northern Hub project – the £530m trans-Pennine rail scheme that could revolutionise rail infrastructure across the North.
Speaking to Insider, Botham said: “We are delighted with the funding announcement from the Chancellor as it lets us get ahead with a key past of the Hub more quickly than we otherwise would have been able to.
“But we have to remember that the government hasn’t yet made a decision regarding the whole of the Northern Hub project.”
But Botham said Network Rail would now be able to progress with the detailed design work necessary to obtain planning consent for the works between Victoria and Piccadilly.
He added: “As a result of the investment announced by the Chancellor, we are now able to start working through the planning process earlier than we envisaged and we hope it will be possible to complete the work in time for the December 2016 timetable change, alongside the completion of North West electrification.”
The overall Northern Hub could create as many as 23,000 jobs across the North – with an extra 700 trains each day helping to stimulate £4.2bn of benefits to the economy.
Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) has also welcomed the Ordsall Chord announcement.
Ian Macdonald, chairman of GMITA, said: “Coming earlier than expected, this is excellent news for Greater Manchester – and for the wider north, as building the Ordsall Chord would mean faster journeys from Leeds, Liverpool, Bradford and Newcastle, would improve rail access to the airport, and potentially provide better local connections to Manchester and Salford.
“The new line, which would be built mainly on brownfield land, would also take advantage of plans to improve Victoria and regenerate the area around it, as well as wider redevelopment in Salford and Manchester.”