Manchester freight facilities benefit from signalling upgrade

New Trafford Park signalling control at the Manchester Rail Operating Centre (NR)

Signalling upgrades to Freightliner’s Manchester terminal, and the DB Cargo and GB Railfreight infrastructure at the Trafford Park Euro Terminal are part of what has been called a “once in a generation” overhaul of the city’s signalling system.

An overhaul of Manchester’s railway signalling system has been completed by Network Rail, the UK infrastructure management agency. Network Rail says replacing the four-decades old equipment will improve future journeys for freight and passengers.

Great North Rail Project

Signalling and infrastructure equipment which was nearly 40 years old around Manchester’s busy Trafford Park freight hub and main line has been replaced with the latest digital technology. Network Rail says it has installed a total of 23 new signals and a further 109 pieces of associated signalling equipment as part of a 36 million pound (42 million euros) Great North Rail Project investment.

Work underway, installing new equipment at Trafford Park in Manchester, including LED signalling (Network Rail)

According to NR, the work will improve reliability and safety on tan important route into Manchester. It will allow longer freight trains to run in the North West taking traffic off the region’s roads. Now that the work is complete, a total of 26 signals are controlled from Manchester’s signalling centre.

Significant environmental gains

The project is designed to future proof the rail link through Manchester, as Britain emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. “This major work on this key rail artery into Manchester will transform connectivity across the North West”, said Roisin Nelson of Network Rail. “Work like this has never been more important. 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.”

More and longer intermodal trains operating out of Trafford Park says the industry. They’ll still have two use the CAstlefield Corridor, says

“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”, said Tim Shakerley, UK rail managing director for Freightliner. “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.”

Welcomed by the freight sector

The upgrade started in August 2020 and finished over the 2021 August bank holiday weekend. Signalling equipment between Flixton Station and Manchester city centre has been modernised, as well as improvements within Trafford Park Depot estate. Network Rail say this will bring huge benefits to rail freight companies, increasing the frequency and length of trains they can run and goods they can carry.

While there are still calls for more capacity – particularly through the notoriously congested Castlefield Corridor which feeds traffic into Trafford Park – the signalling improvements were welcomed by the freight sector. Ian Langton, production director of GB Railfreight, was expecting the work to facilitate growth. “The new state-of-the-art signalling system serving Trafford Park will further enhance reliability on this vital freight route into Manchester”, he said. “This major investment will provide better connectivity, whilst supporting intermodal volume growth enabling more goods to be delivered sustainably across the country.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Manchester freight facilities benefit from signalling upgrade”

Sam Green|12.09.21|14:14

Won’t make an once of difference unless freight is diverted from the narrow corridor approaching Manchester Piccadilly .If this means reopening closed lines then so be it !! The problem is trying to be solved on the cheap !!

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