Northern Hub Study Report. 

The Northern Hub Study was published by Network Rail in February 2010. It relates primarily to Manchester and the lines leading into it.  None of the Study’s recommendations are funded at present.

The study highlights the capacity problems particularly at Piccadilly station, on the route from Piccadilly through Oxford Road, and on the Trans-Pennine routes. The problems, although centred on Manchester, affect travel throughout the north of England.  At Piccadilly station, there are two main problems;

  • The first is a lack of platform capacity both in the main station and on the through lines (platforms 13 and 14).   
  • The second is the conflicting movements at the station, where numerous train movements have to cross the station

The report also highlights lack of capacity on the Hope Valley line as an issue.

The recommendations of the study were as follows:

  • Construction of a curve at Ordsall would allow Leeds-Airport trains to run via Victoria to Oxford Road, continuing to Piccadilly and the airport.  This would also allow Leeds-Liverpool trains to run via Victoria so avoiding the conflicting movements at Piccadilly.
  • Additional platforms 15 and 16 would be built at Piccadilly on the line to Oxford Road.
  • Of particular interest to the CRP are proposals for loops at Chinley and Grindleford, redoubling the junctions at Dore and line speed improvements on the Marple route.

If the study recommendations are implemented, the study findings suggest the following improvements to train services on CRP routes;

  • 2 pairs of fast trains per hour on the Hope Valley, with one train of each pair going to Piccadilly and the other to Victoria. 
  • A quarter hourly frequency on the Glossop line
  • Half hourly frequency on the Buxton line
  • Half hourly frequency to Chinley or possibly to a reopened Chapel en le Frith Central station.

For the most part the study’s proposals were welcomed by the Partnership, especially the capacity enhancing suggestions for the Hope Valley line, for which the Partnership has long campaigned, but Partnership had the following comments;

  • The proposed loops at Grindleford and Chinley need to be of sufficient length to allow a local train (or freight) to stay off the main line in order to allow expresses to pass.  In the case of a local train using the loop it is considered essential that the loops either have platforms so that any time spent in the loop is productive, or that the loops are sufficiently long to allow a local train to run at normal line speed whilst an express overtakes, i.e. the loops are “dynamic”.  At Grindleford there should be facilities for turning back trains.  The Partnership agreed that the opportunity should be taken to remodel Chinley station to make it DDA compliant and to provide additional car parking.  This is essential if Chinley is to become a rail-head and have a half hourly frequency.
  • Re-doubling of the lines at Dore was welcomed, and it was noted that the North junction is to be restructured to be a normal double junction rather than a single lead (as now).  Partners felt that the Dore South curve needed to be made sufficiently long to accommodate freights without their impinging onto the Hope Valley main running lines.
  • The possibility of a half-hourly frequency to Buxton was strongly supported, but Partners expressed surprise that there was no reference to improving line speeds on the Hazel Grove-Buxton section, which currently has some severe speed restrictions that impede the introduction of better frequencies.  It was strongly suggested that the opportunity should be taken to electrify the Hazel Grove-Buxton section as this would improve performance and journey times.  There was a query about the practicality of electrification through the tunnels between Chapel and Dove Holes, but it was pointed out that with a half hourly frequency the line could be singled through the tunnels without loss of capacity. 
  • The doubling of service frequency on the Glossop/Hadfield line is also supported, but Partners expressed surprise that there was no suggestion of any infrastructure enhancements, e.g. dealing with the capacity constraints at Dinting viaduct or the long standing suggestion of a new station at Gamesley.  Also, given that there is considerable evidence of the line being used for very short tripping between Hadfield and Glossop, any suggestion of a reduction in service frequency between Hadfield and Glossop is strongly opposed and the suggested ¼ hour frequency should apply to this link.
  • Partners expressed broad support for the suggested service patterns on the Hope Valley line, particularly the suggested enhanced service from the East Midlands (Derby and Leicester) to Manchester. 
  • It was noted that the study was suggesting that some of the South Trans-Pennine services should be routed via New Mills and Marple, primarily because of lack of capacity between Hazel Grove and Stockport.  This idea was welcomed, but partners considered that any such service should have a stop somewhere in the eastern part of the Manchester conurbation, replacing the Stockport stop and possibly recreating the availability of a Tameside-South Yorkshire service, lost since the closure of the Woodhead line in 1970.  It was suggested that consideration should be given to reinstating a London (St Pancras) service via this route and that one of the South Trans-Pennine trains should be from Hull via Sheffield.
  • Partners expressed the view that the proposed rerouting of the Leeds-Liverpool services and some of the other more local suggestions in the Piccadilly area, could lead to a reduction in connectional opportunities for passengers from the High Peak area.  This had already occurred to some extent with the withdrawal of many of the through trains between Buxton and Blackpool and it was felt that this was likely to get worse once the lines between Manchester and Preston/Blackpool were electrified.  At the very least there would be a requirement for East Manchester trains, e.g. Buxton line trains to run through to Victoria via Oxford Road and the new curve.
  • Partners were strongly opposed to the suggestion that the weekday local service on the HVL should remain more or less as now.  This was felt to be wholly unacceptable, especially as the understanding has always been that the removal of the capacity restraints at Dore and the introduction of loops elsewhere would allow for an hourly frequency local service between Sheffield and Manchester.  The Partnership’s view is that we would expect the weekday service should be enhanced to hourly in the off peak and half hourly during peak times.

It was felt that the re-routing of the North Trans-Pennine services via Victoria seemed to effectively withdraw direct services from Stalybridge to Piccadilly.  It was therefore suggested that a Piccadilly-Stalybridge local service (electric worked preferably) should be investigated, which would then allow the Glossop/Hadfield trains to run fast from Guide Bridge to Piccadilly.  The opportunity might also be taken to re-instate the Stalybridge-Stockport service.  These suggestions would seem to offer considerable enhancements to urban travel opportunities.