Rail passengers see major service boost with new £40 million Stevenage station platform

Dedicated fifth platform and track at Stevenage station will enable more frequent and reliable services

£40million project, delivered over a year ahead of the revised schedule, will provide better connectivity with other destinations on the East Coast Main Line

Completion of the work marks an important milestone in the wider £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh
Rail passengers now have more frequent and reliable services as well as better long-distance connections thanks to a new £40million platform and track at Stevenage station, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has announced today (Monday, August 3). Construction work on the project has been accelerated and delivered more than a year ahead of the revised schedule.

On a visit to the station today where Platform 5 was officially opened to the first weekday services, the Rail Minister hailed the completion of the project as an important milestone in the wider £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh. 

Work began in early 2019 to build a dedicated fifth platform where GTR’s Great Northern trains from the Hertford North line, known as the Hertford Loop, could terminate and then go back towards London creating space on the existing tracks for Thameslink trains and restoring the train service between Stevenage and the Hertford Loop served by buses since May 2019.

With the new platform and track separating out the local Hertford Loop services from the longer distance mainline Great Northern, Thameslink and LNER trains, there will be better reliability.

The restored train service running between Stevenage’s new platform and the Hertford Loop will be an improved all-day, twice-hourly service between Stevenage and Hertford North, giving passengers from the loop better connections with the fast main line services which stop at Stevenage.

Network Rail worked with GTR to accelerate the revised project which has been delivered over 12 months earlier than planned. The new platform includes a passenger lift and stairs to an extended station footbridge along with two waiting rooms, three sets of seating, a help point and ticket machine

.Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“Our ambition is not just to deliver more punctual journeys, but to deliver major projects punctually as well.

“This new platform and track at Stevenage will mean more frequent and reliable services for passengers who use the line day in day out.

“Thanks to the hard work of Network Rail and GTR who have worked tirelessly to accelerate the project, we have reached an important milestone in our ambitious £1.2billion East Coast upgrade, which will bring improved connections, faster journeys, thousands of extra seats per day and more choice for passengers.”

Paul Rutter, Network Rail Route Director, said:
This vital project to build a bay platform at Stevenage is part of a programme of investment that will allow additional services to run on the East Coast Main Line, bringing more choice, more seats and a more reliable railway for passengers.   

“It will also bring more resilient local services on the Hertford Loop, as trains will soon be able to terminate at Stevenage and then go back towards London.

  “We would like to thank passengers who have needed to use bus replacement services between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone, station users and people who live near the railway for their continued patience whilst this essential part of the East Coast Upgrade was completed. “ 

 Steve White, GTR Chief Operating Officer, said:
The most recent independent customer satisfaction survey showed Great Northern as the most improved operator. This is more good news for our customers.

“We have worked closely with Network Rail on this important project as part of the continuing transformation of our railway. This new, additional, platform will help us run services more punctually on both the Great Northern metro and mainline services.

“The new platform also means that we can start running our Hertford services to and from Stevenage again giving our customers from that area fast, convenient, step-free connections at the station to Cambridge, London, Gatwick and Brighton.

“The Government’s £1.2billion investment in the East Coast Upgrade between 2014 and 2024 will improve passenger journeys, create capacity for up to 10,000 extra seats a day on long-distance services, speed up journeys and improve reliability for passengers.

Major work is also taking place at King’s Cross and near Peterborough, where a new section of railway is being built at Werrington so trains, particularly freight, can get to and from the line to Spalding, freeing up space on the East Coast Main Line for extra passenger services.

The East Coast Main Line is also set to become Britain’s first mainline digital rail link with £350 million of new investment to install state-of-the art electronic signalling designed to cut journey times and slash delays.

Conventional signalling will be replaced with a digital system that allows trains to talk to the track allowing the smooth the flow of trains, making journeys safer and reduce signal failures that every year result in thousands of hours of delays.  

£589m to kickstart rail upgrades across the North

  • Over £600m worth of investment in northern rail network will drive improvements across the region, including release £589m for work to upgrade and electrify Transpennine main line  
  • New Council, led by Grant Shapps as Northern Powerhouse Minister, will give northern leaders ‘direct line’ to ministers to accelerate transport projects 
  • Body’s work to drive progress across the North will be supported by DfT staff based in northern cities

£589m to kickstart work on the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester has been confirmed today by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps alongside the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities.

The most congested section of the route will be doubled from two to four tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the North. Most of the line will be electrified, and our ambition is to go further. Full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity are now under consideration as part of an “Integrated Rail Plan” due to report in December. 

Those improvements would allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle; bring longer and more frequent trains; and create significantly more local capacity along the line. 

Upgrades to allow more freight on the route, replacing thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains, will also be considered in the Plan.

Work is also under way to tackle the bottlenecks at either end of the route, without which the upgrade’s potential cannot be fulfilled. Leeds station is being resignalled and a new platform is being built. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion. 

The Council launched today will ensure northern leaders have a direct line to ministers and has been formed with the desire to cut bureaucracy and red tape so passengers can get the modern, reliable transport network they deserve as quickly as possible.

As part of the government’s wider strategy to level up communities and strengthen devolution, the Council’s work will engage with Department for Transport (DfT) staff based in northern cities and dedicated to delivering for the North.

This follows the announcement of a range of investments to level-up infrastructure across the North including £20m to deliver infrastructure renewals on the Tyne and Wear Metro, following £15m announced to upgrade Horden, Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.

Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps said: 

“People across the North rightly expect action, progress and ambition, and this government is determined to accelerate improvements as we invest billions to level up the region’s infrastructure. 

“We are determined to build back better at pace, and this new council will allow us to engage collectively and directly with elected northern leaders to build the vital projects the region is crying out for.” 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said:

“Levelling-up opportunity will be key in our recovery from Coronavirus – and our long-term success will rely on having world-class infrastructure in all parts of the country. The Transpennine rail upgrade shows we are delivering on our promises to the North.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

“This feels like a gear change from the government in the delivery of transport improvements in the North of England and I welcome the new drive that the Transport Secretary is bringing to this. 

“People here deserve a modern, reliable public transport system and it is my hope that the Northern Transport Acceleration Council will bring forward the day when that is a reality. It is crucial that the Council listens to the voice of the North and is accountable to people here through their elected politicians and bodies such as Transport for the North.

“The additional funding for the Transpennine Route Upgrade is a welcome sign of intent from the government. The North has long argued for the existing scheme to be upgraded to bring the full range of passenger and freight benefits and we are glad that the government has listened to this. But it is important to be clear that upgrading the existing railway between Manchester and Leeds does not diminish the need for a new line in Northern Powerhouse Rail nor does it solve the capacity issues in central Manchester which require a separate solution.

“As we look to recover from Covid-19 and build back better, I am ready to work in constructive partnership with the government to get visible transport improvements as quickly as possible. My top priority is to build a London-style, integrated public transport system in Greater Manchester and I look forward to working with the Secretary of State on making this vision a reality.” 

The Northern Transport Acceleration Council will hold its first meeting in September and will be made up of mayors and council leaders with the Transport Secretary as chair. It will work closely with the Northern Powerhouse Growth Body to improve outcomes for people and places in the North. 

Its establishment and the announcement of funds for upgrade works are the latest in a range of investments this government has put into northern transport.  

In March, the DfT took over the running of rail services on the Northern network to deliver vital improvements and ensure that passengers are given the level of service they deserve. 

At Budget the Chancellor confirmed over £720m investment in local transport across the North through the Transforming Cities Fund.  

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:

“As the country begins its economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic it’s vital that Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool have the tools and infrastructure to play their part and achieve their potential. 

“This new body will not only give leaders like me another avenue to press our transport case to ministers. DfT staff based in the North will also see first-hand the challenges and opportunities we face, and the improvements and projects needed to unlock further growth and prosperity, with the ability to act on these.

“It’s also great to see more funding for the critical upgrades necessary to the Transpennine Route, which are desperately needed to bring about transformational change across the network. This will help increase capacity, reliability and connectivity between Redcar and Middlesbrough to York, Leeds and Manchester, giving our passengers, businesses and, ultimately, freight services the links they deserve.”

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government Simon Clarke MP said:

“Improving infrastructure to help better connect communities is key to this Government’s mission to level up every region.

“The new Northern Transport Council is an important step and will help to accelerate and deliver the tangible improvements people across the Northern Powerhouse want to see.”

In May ministers gave the go-ahead to the A63 Castle Street scheme, which will better connect Hull’s city centre with the city’s retail and docks area and help boost economic growth in the region. 

And earlier this month the government provided £1m to fund a business case to transform the Queensbury Tunnel in to a greenway cycling and pedestrian link between Halifax and Bradford.  

At the end of this year the government will publish the Integrated Rail Plan, specifically looking at how to deliver NPR, HS2 and other rail needs as quickly and efficiently as possible for the North.