Transport for the North have recently set out their initial plans for a Northern Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), a 30-year investment plan of infrastructure projects to underpin greener Northern growth. This £5bn pipeline includes rail, road, active travel and smart ticketing proposals; some of which could be started over the next 6-18 months to help the economy ‘build back better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic, and help create around 20,000 construction and design jobs in the North of England.
The NIP underpins TfN’s proposed Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) recently agreed by the North’s business and civic leaders. Of interest to RFNE is their list of “Shovel Ready’” projects that could help create new job opportunities in the North immediately. The whole document can be downloaded from https://transportforthenorth.com/press-release/rebuild-and-transform/?mc_cid=2a3e203ac4&mc_eid=1a96bebdcf but we thought it would be useful to summarise the rail proposals for our area. It is important to note that the ‘pipeline’ contains proposals for rail, roads and active travel as well. We should also note that some of the more distant rail proposal, including those aiming to relieve congestion around Manchester and Leeds, will help to improve timekeeping on rail services that pass through, or terminate in, our region.
Overall the projects in the pipeline aim to support better integration across transport modes creating a more joined- up approach at regional and local level. They need to be supported by further devolved funding and decision-making by city regions and local transport authorities. They project aim to build sustainability into how we plan and deliver transport in the North and include support for new lower carbon technologies, improved digital connectivity, and long-term sustained investment in Active Travel. The range of projects chosen for the ‘pipeline’ will have an impact on the North East. TfN say the projects will:
- Support Active travel and sustain and build on the recent spike in cycling and walking as a sustainable travel choice for many.
- Introduce Smart contactless ticketing on rail: including the introduction of ‘flexi season’ smart rail tickets and contactless, pay-as-you-go rail and Metro travel.
- Support non-urban high-speed broadband to facilitate new ways of working with ‘Zoom’ and ‘Teams’.
- Accelerate and co-ordinate the development of an Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Invest in schemes and pilot studies to progress decarbonisation of transport including the Tees Valley Hydrogen Train project and Hybrid Battery drive technology to allow operation beyond the current existing electrified network without the need for new rail infrastructure.
- Improve Passenger Information by using real time data to make available information on, for example, seating capacity and crowdedness
- Fast track decisions on promoted rail schemes including Middlesbrough and Darlington Station upgrades.
- Support Rail freight including improved access to Teesport and Port of Tyne including the W12 clearance on the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade (TRU
- Accelerate schemes to address congestion at key hubs and improve reliability across the North
- Confirm future development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail to allow work to continue at pace preparing NPR for construction in the mid-2020s.
- Commit to delivery of schemes within the 2020-2025 National Roads Fund programme including New River Tees Crossing and Tyne Bridge & Central Motorway MRN scheme;
- Provide for faster development and delivery of projects on the strategic road network including extending the dual carriageway on theA66.
Group One: Schemes that are ‘Shovel ready’, could be started this Autumn be delivered within 6 – 18 months. The projects include:
- Introduce Rail Flexi-seasons across the North
- Improve data through expanding the Open Data Hub
- Contactless on light rail
- Esk Valley Feasibility Study
- Tees Valley - Gauge Clearance - one of our long term aims
- Middlesbrough & Darlington Stations
- Hartlepool Feasibility Study - one of our long term aims is to improve services on the Durham Coast Line and an improved Hartlepool Station helps remove one of the obstacles
- TPE - Station Enhancements
- TPE - TRU Enhancements
- Flood Resilience
- Station Enhancements
- Suicide and Safety
- Journey Time Improvements
- Northern Train - Small Station Schemes
- Northern Train - Infrastructure Small Schemes
- Northern Train - Performance Small Schemes
- Newcastle Central Station East Entrance
- Sunderland Station Concourse
Group Two: Schemes that could start construction within the next 2 - 4 years the list of projects include:
- Network Rail LNE - Darlington North LSI
- TPE - New Infrastructure
- TPE - Platforms
- Northumberland Line - re-opening this line has been a long term aim of both SENRUG and RFNE
Group Three: Schemes that are close to agreement/procurement and could be accelerated in the short-term and provide confidence to the industry.
- Stillington Line Study - if this line were to be re-opened for passenger traffic one of the big obstacles to our achieving a much faster journey between Newcastle and Middlesbrough would be removed. Combined with improving gauge clearance between Northallerton and Teesside this also opens up a diversionary route to relieve pressure on the ECML.
- Newcastle Station Infrastructure
- East Gateshead Station
But what about the various ideas we have been promoting that haven’t made it onto these lists? RFNE also supports – and is, along with local rail user groups, actively campaigning for:
- An electrically hauled service between Newcastle and Berwick, stopping at all stations, that could also be extended south into County Durham and North into Scotland so opening up many new green travel opportunities. SENRUG are currently awaiting the formal publication of a study funded by Northern, Northumberland County Council and Rail Future into the feasibility of such a service.
- Re-opening Gilsland Station where the immediate obstacle is raising funds to produce a full business case.
- A new station to serve Team Valley, and a number of local housing estates, is supported by the local council and MPs. This would require the re-instatement and electrification of a short section of track in Dunston – part of the project that has recently been identified. Given this small addition to the infrastructure of the ECML it might be possible to extend the local electrically hauled service between Newcastle and Berwick to the proposed new station.
- Re-opening the Leamside Line to provide the additional tracks required by both current plans for additional services on the ECML and to meet the needs of HS2. Not only that but this project would allow much better provision of local public transport for the many communities it passes through and would also open up new possibilities to extend the metro service into Washington. It would also help to make the case for a new station at Ferryhill. In the press release that TfN issued after deciding on the list of projects that they wanted to put forward for possible funding Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration at Durham County Council, is quoted as saying, the context of the beneficial effects of investment in transport infrastructure: “The Northern Infrastructure Pipe line builds upon this success. Reopening the Leamside Line is a good example, as this would not only make rail services more accessible to residents, but it would increase capacity at Durham Railway Station, bringing more people into the county and boosting our economy.” Cllr Marshall is clearly a supporter of the re-opening and is our voice at the top table.
- A new station for Ferryhill aimed at improving accessibility to jobs, shopping, and social opportunities for the many people that live within easy reach of Ferryhill but who do not have access to rail services.