Manchester rail link welcomed as a 'boost' to region

image captionServices could run between Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria

Funding for a new rail link connecting Manchester's main stations has been welcomed as a boost to the region.

In the budget, Chancellor George Osborne gave his backing for a new £85m line between Piccadilly and Victoria.

The rail link is part of a wider £530m plan to improve rail services in and around the city.

Transport bosses said the news was a key step towards providing faster, more frequent trains from Manchester to Liverpool and Leeds.

The Chancellor's announcement confirmed funding for a short stretch of line known as the Ordsall Curve in Salford.

The building of the curve would allow services to travel between Piccadilly and Victoria, reviving a former plan in the city for a "Picc-Vic" link.

According to Network Rail, such a link would see all fast trans-Pennine services going via Manchester Victoria station - a much quicker route.

'Faster journeys'

The proposal is part of Network Rail's Northern Hub plan - announced in February 2010 - to revamp rail services in the north of England.

Journey times between Liverpool and Manchester could be slashed to 33 minutes and Victoria station would be transformed into a major interchange.

Those behind the project also said the improvements would see an extra 700 trains a day and allow as many as six fast trains between Leeds and Manchester every hour.

Although funding for the £530m Northern Hub is yet to be confirmed, Network Rail said the funding confirmation meant they could "hit the ground running".

Programme sponsor Graham Botham said: "We are delighted with the funding announcement from the Chancellor which will allow Network Rail to bring forward work to develop a stage of development of the Northern Hub plans."

"The Northern Hub will help deliver faster, more frequent journeys between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds and stimulate economic growth across the North."

Transport bosses at Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) also welcomed the announcement.

GMITA vice-chairman Keith Whitmore said the Chancellor's announcement was a step towards making the Northern Hub "a reality".

"The Northern Hub proposals would provide a substantial boost to the region's economy," he said.

"The benefits to Greater Manchester... are obvious, and we look forward to the government's commitment to the scheme as a whole in the near future."

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