KNUTSFORD’S MP has helped launch a £600m rail investment programme that commuters hope will help transform trains in the town and the north west.

George Osborne, Tatton MP, marked the start of construction of a fourth platform at Manchester Airport station today, February 7, the first phase of a project which spans the north of England.

The £600m Northern Hub project will provide significant long-term benefits to passengers and help stimulate economic growth in the region by providing faster, more regular and reliable connections between towns and cities.

Alongside Network Rail’s electrification programme, more than £1bn will be invested in the railway in the north of England by 2019.

Mr Osborne said: “The government’s long term plan is about securing a recovery for all parts of the country. Because of the tough decisions we’ve taken on day-to-day spending, we’re able to invest in key infrastructure projects like the Northern Hub, which will create billions for the region.

“Each part of this project, like the first work at Manchester Airport station that I’ve kicked off today, will help us build the infrastructure we need to compete in the global race.

“This investment will ensure growth is not concentrated in any one place by keeping Britain connected and creating thousands of local jobs, delivering a brighter economic future for the whole country.”

In the past year Knutsford Town Council has urged rail bosses to consider creating a link to the town from the airport but has been told it is not feasible.

Martin Frobisher, area director for Network Rail said: “The Northern Hub and electrification programme is the biggest investment in the railway in the north of England for a generation and will transform rail travel for millions of passengers every year.

“Providing a faster, more regular and reliable railway between key towns and cities in the north of England provides significant benefits to passengers and helps to boost the economy, making it quicker and easier to travel further for work or pleasure.

“It is a further example of the importance of the railway to and is a key part of our commitment to provide a better railway for a better Britain.”

Andrew Cowan, chief operating officer for Manchester Airports Group (MAG), owners of Manchester Airport, said: “We welcome the fourth platform at the airport station. It will further open up the airport for our catchment area across northern England. Furthermore it will provide direct access for businesses and employees to our £800m Airport City development, which is transforming the area around the station into an international business hub.

“The fact the development can be completed ahead of schedule and alongside other construction works taking place will be advantageous to employees, the local community and of course our 20m plus airport passengers each year, many of which use the station, which operates 24 hours a day.”

The £20m platform upgrade at Manchester Airport station is due for completion by the end of 2015.