Major plans to improve railways in the North are open to public consultation with exhibitions being held across Manchester.
The proposals, which include redeveloping Victoria station and electrification of sections of track, would create 20,000 – 30,000 jobs and generate £4 billion for the economy in the North.
Thousands of people are expected to turn up to view Network Rail’s plans for the Northern Hub in the largest consultation exercise in the company’s history.
The first exhibition was held at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on Friday, where there was a modest but encouraging turnout.
“It’s good that we’re finally getting some investment,” said one interested observer.
Another voiced concern over the Department for Transport’s involvement in the project.
He said: “If the DFT sees this as a fix – a one-off cost – then we’ve got problems.”
However he stressed that his concerns are with the DFT’s involvement, not with Network Rail’s proposals, and he still supports the project.
Network Rail also plans to build the Ordsall Chord – a short section of track that would allow for direct trains between Piccadilly and Victoria.
This will reduce congestion, shorten journey times and allow for more trains per hour.
Duncan Law, a senior sponsor present at the first exhibition, said there could be as many as 700 additional trains each day across the North as a result of the project.
“We’re looking at unlocking the trade routes so that economic conditions will improve,” he said.
Electrification of sections of track is already underway in places and will allow for trains that are bigger, faster and better for the environment.
“It sells itself really,” said Mr Law. “We’ve had by far and away positive responses.”
Graham Botham, Network Rail’s programme sponsor for the Northern Hub, said: “Better connections between the towns and cities of the North are vital for the economy.”
Plans have been submitted to the Government, who have already committed to funding the Ordsall Chord, and a decision on funding for the rest of the £560 million project is expected next summer.
Mr Law said the project has cross party support in government and is hopeful it will go ahead.
To find out more about the project and for exhibition dates visit www.northernhub.co.uk