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Fast track to Manchester?

But will Liverpool be railroaded in big train plans? Larry Neild waits and wonders

Published on February 22nd 2010.


Fast track to Manchester?

GIVEN the rivalry, and, in some cases, deep resentment, between Liverpool and our east Lancashire cousins in ever-so-slightly smaller Manchester, you would wonder why there’s a thirst to build a fast rail link between the two hissing cousins.

Logic tells me a dog’s leg extension to Liverpool will not be a major priority.

Ever since George Stephenson won five hundred quid by entering the Rainhill Trials, the two Northern cities have been linked by an umbilical chord of solid steel.

Yet travelling, as some of us must, to the de-facto capital of North West England, journey times can be slow and carriages cramped to bursting. Indeed on some of the trains chugging between the two great cities you half expect woolleybacks from Earlestown boarding the trains with herds of sheep heading for Beeston cattle market. The “stopper” takes over an hour, probably not much better than the time taken by Victorian rail travellers.

So the announcement a shedload of cash is to be invested in rail infrastructure in the Manchester/Liverpool corridor is most welcome.

Massive rail projects in and around Manchester will pave the way for faster trains between the two.

Added to that is the exciting project for a high speed inter-city rail link, so fast when a train leaves Lime Street for the metropolis it will arrive the day before.

Leg one of the route will be between London and Birmingham, then onwards to Manchester, and north to Preston and Scotland. But logic tells me a dog’s leg extension to Liverpool will not be a major priority.

Liverpool business people will still have to mingle with the sheep and change at Manchester for the onward rapid journey to London, or travel on the scenic and serene slower route through the Cheshire countryside, battling for seats with rail anoraks.

The Conservatives, if some reports are to be believed, will shunt these exciting plans into the sidings if they get the keys to the door of No 10.

Strange then, that just a short while ago Chancellor-in-waiting George Osborne, the Rt Hon MP for the WAG constituency of Tatton, was waxing lyrical about the train journey between Liverpool and Manchester taking, wait for it, 10 minutes. That’s about the time you’d wait for an 86 bus after seeing the rear end of four of them sailing past your bus stop.

Osborne’s comments came when he was in Tokyo in 2006 sampling the 250mph ‘Maglev’ transport system.

My fear is Manchester will reap the lion’s share of the benefits of the proposed rail spending, making the Middle Mancdom the business and trade hub of the North, with London trains as frequent as those 86 buses in Liverpool. Liverpool will reap co-incidental benefits if the line through Newton le Willows is electrified. Yet some rail people wonder why the busier line through South Parkway and Warrington isn't getting electric trains.

In the early 1830s, Stephenson came to Liverpool and caused a storm with his Rocket. Unless Liverpool’s politicians give a Rocketing to the decision makers the city may end up as side-line on the 21st century rail map.

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