PLANS for a £2.9 billion upgrade of the Transpennine Route linking York, Leeds and Manchester have been revealed.

But some parts of the route are set to be closed for up to 39 weeks a year while the work is carried out.

A letter shared exclusively with the York Press from Network Rail’s route managing director Rob McIntosh to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says the proposals will transform a number of stations on the route, cut journey times and increase the number of passengers who can use the service.

But it also warns the programme will cause “significant disruption” for passengers which will include closures of up to 39 weeks a year between 2020 and 2024.

The letter says: “This will see journey times increase by between 15 to 25 minutes and also constrain capacity over the period.”

And while measures will be put in place to minimise disruption at the busiest times of year to reduce the impact on tourism, university term times and Christmas market events, the organisation warns the programme cannot be delivered without disruption.

The upgrade plans include making line speed improvements and upgrading equipment on the route between York and Ulleskelf, in the Selby District, and electrifying parts of the route to improve the frequency, reliability and number of seats on the busiest parts of the Transpennine route.

The letter says: “This is a very ambitious programme of work that will transform the passenger experience between York, Leeds and Manchester.

“This level of ambition cannot be delivered without significant disruption during the course of the works.

“Delivery of investment on congested infrastructure with limited diversionary capability will be very disruptive for passengers and local communities.”

The route includes many tunnels and bridges, with Network Rail saying “access will be limited and difficult”.

While work is carried out, trains will be diverted on other routes such as the Calder Valley or Healey Mills lines.

The scheme would see the Transpennine route progressively transformed, with work due to be completed by 2025.

Millions of people use the route and Network Rail says the number of passengers is expected to double in the next 20 years.

The letter says: “In developing our proposals we have worked hard to find the right balance between delivering a transformational series of interventions for the north and minimising disruption to the communities and economies along the Transpennine Route.”

It adds that Network Rail has considered ways in which the upgrade could be delivered faster, with fewer but longer blockages, but that this would increase costs and lead to “unacceptable” disruption which could be damaging to the local economy. The letter said the organisation has also considered if further improvements could be made during the scheme if funding becomes available, but said an attempt to deliver more work would mean the project could become “unbearable” for passengers.