Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-229)



  220. Do you believe you can get some more capacity out of Manchester Piccadilly?
  (Mr Clarke) The current situation faced at Manchester Piccadilly is with the through routes, which are the principal ones we are talking about through platforms 13 and 14. At the peak times they are at capacity in terms of the number of trains we run through there.

  221. So even with total co-operation between all the operators, you do not think you can get any more capacity there.
  (Mr Clarke) No, not in terms of putting additional trains through. As I said in the answer I gave earlier, if you increase the capacity of the trains themselves, that is longer trains which occupy each slot on the network, yes, you can increase the capacity.

  222. So you think the key there would be longer trains.
  (Mr Clarke) If you want a rapid increase in the capacity in that part of the network, the obvious answer is greater capacity of trains at peak times.

  223. What about achieving these improvements in the amount of freight moved around in the North of England? Particularly on the Trans-Pennine routes we could take some very heavy lorries off the roads if it worked. Manchester Piccadilly, one train an hour for freight. Any chance of improving that or of getting freight round Manchester without going through? It seems crazy that you have those two very congested platforms at Piccadilly and they have to take the freight as well.
  (Mr Clarke) The freight route into Manchester, into Trafford Park, is very heavily used overnight. A large amount of traffic uses the available infrastructure in the network at times when it is not required for passenger transport. At the moment we run everything which is required through there from the freight operating companies. Yes, there are issues about the flexibility of the system but at the moment that is not constraining the routing of freight.

  224. What about bringing some more of it round through the North of Manchester, the old Victoria station? It is cumbersome to shunt passenger trains, but it is not that cumbersome to shunt freight, is it?
  (Mr Clarke) No, but the issue with the alternative route is that the principal freight route is into the yard at Trafford Park. The approach from the other direction, from Manchester, is technically available, but it entails a great deal of shunting to do it and therefore the prime route is through Manchester Piccadilly from the West Coast Mainline link to Manchester. There is the addition as well that a lot of it is electrified.

  225. Is there not a strong argument for trying to improve the amount of freight that can be handled there?
  (Mr Clarke) Yes.

  226. So when are you going to do something about it?
  (Mr Clarke) I am saying that you would need infrastructure changes to do that, which needs the SRA's view of how it wants to improve the infrastructure in the area.

  227. How significant are those infrastructure changes? I should have thought you could get a huge amount of trans-Pennine traffic off the roads for very small infrastructure changes.
  (Mr Clarke) The best thing to do would be to try to give you a response to that from outside.

  Chairman: What we should like from you, Mr Armitt, is some very short note which at least assesses your view of the problems around Manchester. They have been raised more than once, not just in terms of freight but in terms of extra passenger paths. If we could have a very short note on that basis it would be helpful?

Helen Jackson

  228. We did hear very clear evidence earlier this afternoon from one of the Train Operating Companies that the only satisfactory way to get a real increase in East-West trans-Pennine movement of freight, was through the Woodhead Tunnel, so we would welcome your view on that.
  (Mr Armitt) I can well believe that the Train Operating Companies would seek more infrastructure, changed infrastructure and expenditure on enhancing the infrastructure to enable freight to be carried. If all we do is just put more freight on the existing network, then we would simply create other problems. If you want more infrastructure and additional infrastructure, it will have to be assessed and gauged for its cost benefit and assessed for its overall impacts by the SRA and the SRA will then make those decisions across the network and tell us what they would like us to do.

  229. Will you do us a note?
  (Mr Armitt) We can do you a note on our view of the issues surrounding Manchester and freight.

  Chairman: We should just like to have some idea of where you are coming from because we may have a good idea of where you are going to. May I say thank you very much gentlemen, you have been very helpful?

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