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the millions spent on not improving our railways

The millions spent on not improving our railways

Plans to build two new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which were scrapped last year have cost the taxpayer £23m. Platforms 15 and 16 at Piccadilly station, which included upgrades at Oxford Road, were supposed to fix rail chaos across the North of England. But last May, rail bosses said that the proposal, which went through a public inquiry and was awaiting final sign off since 2015, would be ‘hugely expensive’ and ‘incredibly disruptive’. Instead of adding two new platforms at Piccadilly, platforms could now be removed from Oxford Road to make way for longer ones in the latest plans to improve the flow of trains in and out of Manchester city centre. The new plans for the Oxford Road platforms are yet to be confirmed, but some work to change the layout of the station, which includes new ticket barriers, is set to start next month. However, the plans for new platforms at Piccadilly are now off the table. Try MEN Premium now for FREE… just click here to give it a go. The Manchester Evening News can now reveal how much money was spent on the Oxford Road to Manchester Piccadilly project. The figures obtained following a Freedom of Information request to Network Rail reveal that the cost of developing the project was £23m. The project, which was called ‘Package C’, was part of the £1bn Northern Hub plan that was announced by the then-Chancellor George Osborne in 2014. The infrastructure upgrade, which was dubbed the ‘biggest investment in Manchester’s railways since the Victorian era’, included the new platforms at Piccadilly, upgrades to Oxford Road station and the electrification of the Manchester-Leeds route. Approximately £100m was spent on the ‘Hub Inner Programme’ of works, of which around £77m was for the Ordsall Chord – the new link between Piccadilly and Victoria completed in 2017. The rest of the money was spent on developing and consulting on ‘Package C’. According to Network Rail, £23m includes the cost of employing on staff, external engineering services and legal costs as well as the production of materials and consultation events and the public inquiry which was held in April 2014. Following the public inquiry, a Transport and Works Act Order was submitted to the government, but the work was never signed off by the Secretary of State. Last May, the government announced £72m worth of rail upgrades which will pay for a third platform at Salford Crescent and new ‘turnback sidings’ near Salford Central and Manchester Victoria. But the announcement was overshadowed by the withdrawal of the plans to build the new platforms at Piccadilly, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham saying it will mean ‘misery’ for the North. It comes after a Network Rail review of the plans in 2019 concluded that ‘no other option comes close’ to increasing capacity on the Castlefield corridor to 16 trains per hour than the package of work that included platforms 15 and 16 at Piccadilly. Former Transport for the North (TfN) boss Jim Bamford urged local leaders to keep fighting for the new platforms to be built after the plans were pulled. Commenting on the costs of the project revealed by the M.E.N., Manchester council leader Bev Craig promised she would continue to ‘press the case’ for long-term infrastructure investment in the city. She said: “If Manchester is to reach its full potential, we desperately need serious and strategic investment in rail infrastructure to improve reliability, increase capacity and reduce journey times. “Instead, as these figures and the short-sighted cancellation of HS2 show, we have a Government which has spent millions and millions of pounds on NOT improving our railways. It isn’t good enough and we will continue to press the case, to this and the next Government, for long-term infrastructure investment which will improve the experience of passengers and open up new opportunities.” Network Rail said a ‘range of different proposals’ designed to improve train service performance and maximise reliability for customers have been identified, working with rail bodies. As part of these proposals, an alternative project for Oxford Road has been developed. This project will provide longer platforms, remove signalling constraints and improve accessibility at the station, according to the public body which owns and manages the railway network. A spokesperson said: “We are investing millions in rail infrastructure not just in Manchester, but across the North, to provide a network which is reliable and connects even more communities. “In May 2023 we withdrew our planning application to remodel Manchester Oxford Road and build platforms 15 and 16 at Piccadilly in order to take forward our new proposals. Plans for Oxford Road will generate more capacity for longer trains with more seats to pass through this key corridor more smoothly without the signalling and congestion constraints passengers must endure currently. “We recognise some stakeholders view this is a step change, but our modelling has shown the new proposal offers an improved service for our passengers, is less disruptive and provides the best value for money for the taxpayer.” The Department for Transport has been approached for comment.

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