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Northern Hub Consultation Begins

Paul Berentzen finds mostly enthusiasts at the MOSI leg

Written by . Published on October 11th 2011.

Northern Hub Consultation Begins

IF the numbers are to be believed, Network Rail’s plans to develop the railway in the North could be worth a staggering £4bn to the region’s economy.

I headed to the Museum of Science and Industry to find out how this could happen.

“It’s good that we are finally getting investment,” he said. “But there is a lack of joined up thinking.”

Friday was the first day of a consultation period for Network Rail to take on board public opinion regarding its £560m plans to overhaul the railway across the North. 

The Northern Hub project aims to build a direct rail link between Victoria and Piccadilly, renovate Victoria station and make sections of track faster and more efficient. 

I wanted wanted to see what people were saying about it.

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On the face of it, it all seems very sensible: faster lines, more trains, increased capacity and better stations should all add up to happier passengers.

And that seemed to be the consensus in the room. One curious passenger told me he was just there to find out more about the plans.

“I’m glad they are finally doing something,” he said, shortly before mistaking me for a Network Rail employee and asking about details that go way beyond my level of understanding. 

Senior sponsor for the project, Duncan Law, said the responses he hadheard have been overwhelmingly positive too. But then, I suppose he would.

“To be honest, it pretty much sells itself,” he told me. “There is not one part of this that is a weak link.” 

Given the increasing congestion on the roads, he argues, we need to focus on growing the rail network.

They are serious about growth too. Law reckons they can run an extra 700 trains each day and generate 20,000 - 30,000 jobs through the project.

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And Network Rail, he claims, is doing it in such a way that it benefits trade and stimulates the economy, such as making journeys to Manchester Airport quicker and easier.

 Electrification of the railway will make trains quicker, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Unsurprisingly then, the plans have cross-party support in the government. As a result, Mr Law is hopeful they will come back with the rest of the funding when they consider the proposals in the summer of 2012.

The government has already committed to the Ordsall Chord - a section of rail that would help ease the bottleneck near Piccadilly station, allowing more frequent trains across the North and reducing journey times. 

The only criticisms I heard were about how the plans are implemented, not the proposals themselves. 

One exceptionally well-informed man I spoke to emphasised the importance of doing this properly. Cutting corners now will only cost us more money later, he told me.

“It’s good that we are finally getting investment,” he said. “But there is a lack of joined up thinking.” 

He was quick to add, however, that his problem was not with Network Rail but with the Department for Transport. 

“It’s the DFT sticking their nose in," he said. “If they see this as a fix - a one-off cost - then we’ve got problems.” 

To find out more about the plans, visit www.northernhub.co.uk or head to one of the following exhibitions:

Friday 7 October:
Museum of Science & Industry 15.00 – 19.00

Saturday 8 October:
Museum of Science & Industry 10.00 – 17.00

Tuesday 11 October:
Salford Central Station 07.00 – 09.30, 15.00 – 19.00

Wednesday 12 October:
Salford Civic Centre 14.00 – 20.00

Thursday 13 October:
Eccles Station 07.00 –13.00

Friday 14 October:
Manchester Victoria Station 07.00 – 09.30, 15.00 – 19.00

Saturday 15 October:
Manchester Victoria Station 10.00 – 18.00

Wednesday 19 October:
Manchester Piccadilly Station 07.00 – 09.30, 15.00 – 19.00

Thursday 20 October:
Manchester Town Hall (foyer) 14.00 – 20.00

Friday 21 October:
Arndale Centre, Manchester 10.00 – 18.00

Saturday 22 October:
Arndale Centre, Manchester 10.00 – 18.00

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