“Once in a generation” overhaul of Manchester’s railway signalling system is complete

Manchester’s railway signalling system gets a once in a generation modernisation, future-proofing the network for passengers and freight The old signalling equipment had been in place for around 40 years in the Trafford Park area and has now been upgraded to include the latest in digital signalling technology.  The work undertaken is part of the GBP36m Great North Rail project and has seen the installation of 23 new signals along with 109 pieces of associated signalling equipment by Network Rail.

The route is a significant path into Manchester and the new signalling equipment will bring improved reliability and safety for both passengers and freight using it.  Part of the benefits of the new signalling system is that it can now allow longer freight trains to run in the North West, which will have a knock on effect of taking traffic off roads in the area. Work began on the upgrade in August 2020 and was finished during the August Bank Holiday 2021 and now means that Manchesters hi-tech signalling centre will now control 26 signals. 

The modernisation of the signalling equipment has been carried out between Flixton Station and Manchester City Centre with further improvements also being carried out at the Trafford Park Depot estate. Upgrades to signalling equipment have also taken place at Freightliner Manchester Terminal, and the DB Cargo / GB Railfreight Trafford Park Euro Terminal. This work will bring massive benefits to rail freight businesses, providing improved frequency to allow more freight moves and also allowing increased length of trains to carry more goods. 

For further information on Network Rails upgrades to signalling equipment, please visit here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/looking-after-the-railway/signalling/ Roisin Nelson, sponsor for Network Rail, said: “This major work on this key rail artery into Manchester will transform connectivity for both freight and passengers across the North West. Work like this has never been more important – future proofing this economically important rail link as Britain emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

I’d like to thank passengers and residents for their patience while we delivered these improvements over the last year. The investment will keep passengers on the move, products on supermarket shelves and vital goods going to businesses across the country for decades to come.” Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and the work carried out by colleagues at Network Rail will ensure our customers are able to travel on a more modern and more efficient rail network.

“We’re proud to be part of an industry that is delivering so much for the people of the North and the work to improve the infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with our own improvements which, over the past 18 months, have seen the full introduction of 101 new trains, the complete refurbishment of our older trains and significant enhancements at our stations.” Tim Shakerley, UK rail managing director for Freightliner, said:  “Manchester is a key location for Freightliner with eight trains currently operating on a daily basis to key intermodal ports at Felixstowe, London Gateway and Southampton. This investment will allow us to continue our train lengthening trials which has seen us running the longest intermodal trains in the UK at 775 metres, increasing the efficiency and productivity of our services.

Moreover, there are significant environmental gains from running longer and heavier services. Moving more freight from road to rail will help ease congestion on the UK’s busy roads and thereby reduce CO2 emissions within the supply chain.” Ian Langton, production director of GB Railfreight, said: “The new state-of-the-art signalling system serving Trafford Park will further enhance reliability on this vital freight route into Manchester.

This major investment will provide better connectivity, whilst supporting intermodal volume growth enabling more goods to be delivered sustainably across the country.”

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