UK: Rail Infrastructure For The Northern Powerhouse: On The Right Track?

Last Updated: 29 October 2018
Article by Andrew Herring

Rail transport infrastructure is an essential component for the success of the Northern Powerhouse. The government vision for the future of the North's rail system is clear – improved journey times and train frequencies that connect the main city regions and the North's largest airport, with better connections to the wider network.

Spring 2016 saw Transport for the North publish an update of the Northern Transport Strategy – originally published in 2015 – identifying further progress on the long-term transport investment programmes, including in rail, road and associated schemes such as smart ticketing needed to deliver the key transport infrastructure elements of the Northern Powerhouse.

Following this, the government published its Northern Powerhouse Strategy in November 2016. The strategy confirmed a commitment to provide £13 billion in transport in the North over the course of its parliament, including approximately £1.2 billion for upgrading the existing rail franchises in the North and £60 million development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the key rail project to improve connectivity between the cities of the North.

The intention? To invest in rail and other transport infrastructure to transform transport links that help re-balance the economy, drive the process of agglomeration and close the economic gap between the North and South, which on current figures is underpinned by a 25% productivity gap with the South.


The investment plans of the government and key agencies such as Transport for the North are underpinned by several key strategic projects.

HS2 is set to become the backbone of the national railway network and will be a key element. Following the completion of Phases 2a and 2b, connectivity and journey times between the cities of the North, the Midlands and London will be transformed. It aims to improve journey times to Leeds by up to 50 minutes from London and 69 minutes from Birmingham. HS2, as a whole, is not just a new railway line – it is a wider economic development project that will see, for example, new stations at Manchester Airport and in the centre of Manchester provide the focus for wider growth and regeneration, and transform connectivity with the wider network and other transport modes.

An additional key priority in the North is the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, sometimes referred to as HS3 or TransNorth. The long-term ambition is to link the economic centres of the North more closely so it can compete more effectively with the rest of the UK and international regions. Plans already under consideration include substantial upgrades to the lines between Leeds and Newcastle, and Leeds and Hull, as well as a vision to integrate a new line (between Manchester, Manchester Airport and Liverpool) with the planned HS2 infrastructure. Budget approval of £60 million was given for feasibility studies in 2016, and detailed plans are due to be published in 2017.

A focus on achieving "early wins" through upgrading existing services is also a key element of the government's plans. New Northern and TransPennine franchises commenced operation in 2016. The franchises are now managed in the north in partnership between Rail North and the Department for Transport. This ground-breaking devolution decision is driving transformational investment in the region's railways over the next five years. A £1.2 billion investment will see the introduction of some 500 brand new carriages across the franchises, electrification of lines and the removal of outdated trains, leading to an additional 2,000 services per week and 40,000 more passengers at peak travel times across the region. This is a signification step change from managed relative decline under previous franchises, to growth and investment franchises which will serve the entire north. It should also be noted that other investments in the region's rail and metro networks continue to be made, with TfGM continuing to make significant investments in the Metrolink light rail system, and Merseytravel procuring a new rolling stock fleet. Other ongoing schemes include improvements to the existing TransPennine route, which will reduce journey times between Manchester and Leeds by 15 minutes, and the implementation of the Northern Hub scheme, which will significantly improve services around Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester. Passengers on the East Coast Main Line serving destinations including Leeds, York and Newcastle will also benefit from the introduction of new rolling stock under the Intercity Express Project (IEP).

Supplementing these very significant developments is Smart North, a project which will deliver simplified fares, integrated ticketing and improved passenger information across the North It will allow passengers to travel quickly and easily on public transport around the North. This "tap-in, tap-out" system will enable rapid and seamless travel payment with a "fair-price promise" to ensure commuters get value travel and a real-time journey planning system to keep passengers on the move. The project is supported by £150 million awarded in the 2015 spending review and now has a clear implementation plan.

Away from passenger transport, key principles for action are the increase of rail the network capacity and resilience for freight, and the support of growth in strategically located rail freight interchanges and distribution centres.

Barriers to Success?

Taken as a whole, current and planned investment in the existing "classic" network and new projects such as Phases 2a and 2b of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail represent the most significant and sustained programme of investment in the North's rail network since the mid-20th century.

Delivery of this programme will not be without its challenges. The delivery of new UK infrastructure is subject to considerable challenges in relation to the obtaining of necessary consents and approvals, including parliamentary authorisations. A skills gap will present constraints in a context where a number of nationally significant infrastructure schemes are being delivered concurrently. Above all, clear and sustainable sources of funding and finance must be established in competition with other national schemes such Crossrail 2.

However, it is arguable that, taken as a whole, the North is in a far better position to ensure delivery than at any time in the recent past. The importance of new transport infrastructure in addressing the productivity gap is now generally accepted; political reform such as the creation of combined authorities and directly elected mayors will establish broadly based democratic support for key projects; financial reform and innovation will hopefully underpin project finances; and the creation of key delivery bodies such as Transport for the North will ensure that the region is a better position to influence, control and deliver in this key area.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions