Plans unveiled for new local train service direct to Manchester

-Credit: (Image: Adam Vaughan)
-Credit: (Image: Adam Vaughan)

Plans for new train services between London and Manchester have been unveiled following the cancellation of HS2’s northern leg. Operator London Northwestern Railway is seeking permission to extend its existing services – which run between the capital and Crewe – to Manchester Victoria via the West Midlands.

It is seeking to use the same track space on the West Coast Main Line that Virgin Trains and Lumo have announced open access bids for. A decision on which services can be launched will be made by the Department for Transport and regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

If London Northwestern Railway’s proposal is given the go ahead, new direct links from Rugeley, Lichfield, Tamworth and Atherstone in the West Midlands to Manchester city centre and Warrington would be introduced from summer 2026 using Class 730 electric trains.

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In October last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the plan to extend HS2 between the West Midlands and Manchester amid spiralling costs.

Ian McConnell, managing director of London Northwestern Railway-owner West Midlands Trains, said: “This proposal puts passengers at the heart of the railway and is the common sense solution to increase connectivity between the North West and the West Midlands following the cancellation of the northern leg of HS2.

“With platform space at Euston at a premium, the best way to provide new journey opportunities to Manchester is simply to extend existing services, rather than trying to squeeze more trains onto the congested West Coast Main Line.

“Additionally, unlike the open access model, the millions of pounds of extra revenue our proposals would generate will be returned to the taxpayer, providing a win-win for rail passengers.

“Just as we have shown with our existing long-distance services to Birmingham and Liverpool, our green and environmentally-friendly new electric trains will provide an affordable alternative to the car and coach, with fares up to 50% cheaper than the main intercity operator.”

Most train operators in England – including London Northwestern Railway – are paid a management fee, with the UK Government holding responsibility for costs and revenue.

Open access operators receive no taxpayer-funded subsidies and take on all revenue risk. There are concerns that these services create additional strain on the rail network and take too much revenue away from conventional operators.

Dominic Booth, chief executive officer of West Midlands Trains’ parent company Transport UK Group, said: “Our new service proposals represent a significant step forward in enhancing the rail network between Manchester and London.

“By leveraging the new Class 730 electric trains, we will provide greater capacity and comfort for customers travelling to Manchester while also supporting the local economy by creating new job opportunities in the North West.

“This proposal aligns with our commitment to delivering efficient, sustainable, and customer-focused rail services across the UK.”

London Northwestern Railway is also proposing to begin running trains to Manchester Airport by extending its existing service between Stafford and Crewe.

It intends to formally submit its plans to the ORR later this year.

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