The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation on improving rail services in and around Manchester following the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are three options being considered, all of which feature increasing levels of change from the pre-Covid service patterns. The three options affect different routes, and which routes have direct services to Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations, and Manchester Airport.
The consultation will inform decisions to be made in this spring, with any potential changes to the passenger timetable implemented from May 2022, ready for when passengers are likely to return in much greater numbers.
Chris Heaton-Harris, Rail Minister, said: "We are putting the power to improve Manchester’s rail network in the hands of those that use it daily.
"I urge passengers to use this opportunity to comment on the future of your railway.
"Improving punctuality and reliability is one of my key priorities. As we continue to build back better from the pandemic, these proposals will ensure that the rail network is more dependable for those who use it every day."
This work brings together the DfT, Transport for the North (TfN), Network Rail, and the train operators Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE).
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: "I welcome this consultation and the Government’s focus on this issue.
"The bottleneck in central Manchester is a problem for the whole of the north – and solving these congestion issues will improve the reliability of rail services for passengers right across the north.
"As we look to build back better from the pandemic, we want to work with the Government to deliver a reliable and dependable timetable, alongside the much-needed upgrades to our Victorian infrastructure."
Liam Robinson, TfN's Rail North Committee Chair, added: "Passengers need a better deal when it comes to reliability. When they return to the north’s trains, they need to step onto services with confidence.
"Manchester’s congested rail network has long been the source of delays and frustration for passengers, with knock-on effects for the north’s communities. We urge everyone to take a look and give their view on these proposals.
"While the goal of these short-term changes is to reduce delays and increase reliability, it is clear that the work we are doing with government and the industry on longer-term investment in rail infrastructure is also critically important, alongside changes to services."