“Digital technology and digital control rooms mean a more reliable service, an even safer railway, and more capacity for passengers."
A £5m rail funding package for the north of England that would see in a UK-first has been unveiled by the UK government, as it looks to bring the region’s network in line with its southern counterparts.
Should it go ahead, the TransPennine route that connects Manchester with Leeds would become the first digitally controlled intercity main line railway in the UK. “I want to put the passenger first, and use the newest, best smartest technology to disrupt their lives as little as possible,” said transport minister Grayling.
Grayling announced that it will be giving Network Rail – the public body that manages the UK rail network – the money to develop digital signalling technology so it could be embedded into the the existing TransPennine upgrade work. The work in progress on the line covers more than just signalling, with bridges, tunnels, track and junctions also being upgraded.
“Digital technology and digital control rooms mean a more reliable service, an even safer railway, and more capacity for passengers,” said Grayling, whose words were published on the Department for Transport (DfT) website.
“I want the modernisation of the transpennine rail route to use the latest technology to maximise its potential for the future. We’re already seeing how digital technology is transforming the London Underground,” the minister added.
Commenting on the TransPennine investment, a spokesperson for Network Rail said it was delighted with the news and that work was already underway. “Network Rail is currently working on the development of potential infrastructure options for the Transpennine Route Upgrade and will submit these options to the DfT for consideration in December.”
The DfT’s latest news forms part of the government’s Northern Powerhouse plan to redistribute wealth across the UK and make it less focused on London. It was launched by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, in 2014, however aspects of the original deal for electrification hit the buffers in 2015 when secretary Grayling said full electrification would be “paused”, instead using bi-mode trains that run on both electric and diesel.
Minister Grayling also reinforced in his statement words first made by his predecessor, Patrick McLoughlin, that many of the deeply unpopular and out of date Pacer trains originally made from the frames of buses would be removed from the network in two years’ time. “The hideous old noisy trains that were built on the cheap in British Rail days,” as labelled by Grayling, will be recycled in 2019 and replaced with modern replacements like CAF trains that the line's namesake will use. TransPennine Express gave further details on the trains in September that will be produced as part of its £500m investment programme.
Very much in favour of the government's investment, a spokesperson form TPE said he number of passenger journeys on its network are set to increase by more than 50% compared with 2015. "Continued investment in our infrastructure and rail capacity across the North is still very much needed to allow prosperity and growth across our main towns and cities”
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