RAIL passengers in the north west of England can expect more trains, more seats, reduced congestion and improved stations as Network Rail today embarks on the largest national railway spending programme since Victorian times.

The ambitious five-year plan will see £38bn of investment being made across the network.

On the London North Western route, which includes the north west region, more than £5.5bn of maintenance and investment will be carried out to make a tangible improvement to people’s lives and provide a significant boost to the economy.

More than 1.5bn passenger journeys are made by rail each year, with around 146m taking place in the North West, a figure predicted to continue to grow year-on-year.

As part of the improvements, and to help meet the increasing number of passengers, more than 25,000 extra seats into Manchester, and nearly 7,000 extra seats into Liverpool, could be provided during the morning peak by 2019.

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond MP said: “I know the importance of the railways to the North West and am determined that passengers and businesses get the services they deserve.

“That is why we are putting record amounts of government funding into our railways over the next five years.

“Improved stations, massive electrification and better infrastructure through projects like the £600m Northern Hub and £400m North West Electrification Programme will deliver quicker, cleaner and more reliable journeys for passengers and drive forward our long-term economic plans.

“In addition, I will continue to push the industry to make sure they are delivering the electric trains that will make this transformation complete.”

Dyan Crowther, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “It’s an important and exciting time for the railway, with significant levels of investment being made to meet the increasing demand of an ever-rising number of passengers.

“The railway is a vital part of the national infrastructure. It connects homes and workplaces, businesses with markets, creates jobs, stimulates trade and supports the growth of a balanced economy.

“Passenger numbers in recent years have grown far beyond predictions, so it’s vital that this investment over the next five years helps meet the increasing demand across the north west of England.

“Improved stations, more tracks and longer platforms, electric trains, reopened railway lines and fewer level crossings – all will help deliver more frequent, more comfortable, more reliable journeys and a safer railway for everyone.”

Across the London North Western route, around £2bn will be invested by Network Rail to provide improvements to tackle congestion provide additional capacity for passengers and improve facilities at stations.

In the North West, between 2014 and 2019, work which will be completed includes: • The £600m Northern Hub project which will upgrade stations and the infrastructure to provide better connectivity and faster journey times, particularly between Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, contributing to an improved economy across the north of England.

• A £20m platform upgrade at Manchester Airport station will help to accommodate the increased capacity at the station provided by new direct rail services to the airport • The £400m North West Electrification Programme will electrify more than 350km of railway to provide better services across the North West to Yorkshire and the north east of England • The £44m redevelopment of Manchester Victoria station will transform it into a 21st century gateway to the city • A new Rail Operating Centre (ROC) in Manchester will come into operation later this year, one of 12 centres which will eventually operate the entire rail network across Britain.

• The West Coast main line power supply upgrade will help to provide a more reliable service along the route between London and Glasgow, via Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Manchester.

• The £250m Stafford Area Improvements Programme will deliver capacity and line speed improvements on the West Coast main line between Stafford and Crewe, the last upgrade before the WCML reaches full capacity • The £81m Watford Area Renewals Programme will see nine miles of track relayed and a complete replacement of signalling between Kings Langley and Bushey to help boost reliability and improve performance on the WCML The next five years will also see Network Rail committing itself to furthering its environmental sustainability and resilience in the face of extreme weather and changing climate.

Manchester Victoria station development

The £44m project will future-proof the station, accommodating the electrification of the line to Liverpool and will allow for improvements to services delivered as part of the Northern Hub, which could see the numbers of people using the station double by 2019, with faster, more frequent trains running to Leeds and Liverpool.

It will provide a new link to the Manchester Arena and there will be sympathetic refurbishment to Grade II listed parts of the station, complemented by a stunning new roof. There will also be upgraded Metrolink facilities.