Think-tank report describes Manchester hub plan as vital to meeting 40% growth in demand by 2020

A plan to improve rail connections across the Manchester region – the so-called Manchester hub – could boost the north of England’s economy by up to £16bn, a think tank has found. The government-backed report, conducted by the Northern Transport Contract (NTC) said the improvements were vital to meet a predicted 39% growth in demand by 2020.

It concluded that the hub was the “greatest single transport issue facing the North of England.

“It has an impact on rail services across the North as most passenger trains pass through [it] and the movement of freight is also affected.”

Professor David Begg, NTC chairman, said the project needed cash to help Manchester play its part in bringing the UK economy out of the doldrums.

“If the North is to play its part in national economic recovery, it will be through business growth in our major cities which are inter-connected by rail through Manchester.

“A joined-up North, provided with highly reliable direct express services, is part of the vision that we have defined. Investment in Manchester is needed to deliver it.”

NTC identified 10 conditions that Network Rail should meet in trying to improve the hub, including: reducing journey times and carbon emissions; connecting Manchester to Salford Quays and other regional town centres; improving links to Manchester airport; meeting increased demand for West Coast Mainline services; and capacity to accommodate any planned High Speed 2 build.

Network Rail is due to publish its own report into the hub by January.