Government lays out next steps for ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ between Liverpool and Manchester

A much-needed boost following the sour taste left by HS2.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 26th March 2024

The UK government have outlined the next steps for the development of rail links between Manchester and Liverpool as part of the upcoming ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ plans, aiming to boost connectivity between more towns, cities and rural areas.

Forming part of the Department for Transport‘s (DfT) wider Network North plans, which is receiving over £36 billion in funding, the next phase of the railway redevelopment will see journeys between Manchester and Liverpool massively improved.

Following meetings with local leaders and Northern MPs who expressed support for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the plans are also set to benefit the likes of Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Airport as well as the two cities’ main stations. 

It’s estimated that an additional £12 billion in taxpayer money will be directed towards the overall Powerhouse project with a view to act as a “catalyst for economic growth across the North of England by transforming east-west transport links and better-connecting people to work, education and business opportunities.”

Key improvements

What does this look like on paper? Well, first and foremost, projections have it that train travel time between Manchester and Liverpool is set to be reduced from approximately 50 minutes to around just 35 if all goes to plan.


A statement from DfT goes on to detail how this “will also mean passengers are able to ‘turn up and go’, knowing the next train will only be 10-15 minutes away.”

Moreover, it has been suggested that passenger capacity could also be trebled between the likes of Liverpool and Leeds, offering 2,100 extra seats per hour in each direction and, in turn, having a positive knock-on effect at other Northern stations. Mayor Andy Burnham also feels confident that discussions surrounding a Manchester underground are now also a possibility.


With options also posed for the redesigns of both Manchester Piccadilly and the approach into Liverpool, these sound like real tangible changes we’ll genuinely be able to feel the impact of. Brilliant news – provided the plans stick, of course.

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Better still, as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail, places like Liverpool, Warrington and several towns east of the Pennines could also benefit from direct services to Manchester Airport, with journey times slashed by almost an hour and passengers from Leeds potentially seeing a 41-minute reduction.

Lord McLoughlin, Chair of Transport for the North, said of the latest plans: “We welcome the progress of further engagement with Northern political and business leaders. It’s essential that any final route is place-based and meets the ambitions of local leaders for their residents and businesses.


“Northern Powerhouse Rail is a key cornerstone to how we transform the North for generations to come. We look forward to working with the government to realise our shared ambition for a rail network that the people and businesses of the North truly deserve.”

With long-term investment in the huge infrastructure having been boosted since it was initially outlined back in 2020, Northern Powerhouse Rail is slated to be finished any time between 2029 and 2040. It’s still a long way off and the HS2 saga has certainly taught us not to get carried away, but it’s a start.

Featured Images — Hugh Llewelyn (via Flickr)/ HS2/Bob Martin (via Flickr)/Wikimedia Commons