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‘Northern Powerhouse’ transport strategy launched

Words: Laura Edgar
M6. junction 20

Chancellor George Osborne, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Northern city leaders have set out plans to “revolutionise travel in the North”.

Transport for the North (TfN), established by the chancellor to bring together Northern transport authorities, has published Northern transport strategy, along with the government. The document includes plans to reduce journey times between major cities in the North and develop east-west road connections.

Network Rail has set out its options for its work for the Northern transport strategy, including:

• Leeds to Newcastle, down from 87 minutes to 50 minutes. Emerging cost estimate between £8.5 billion and £14 billion. New route.

• Manchester to Leeds, down from 49 minutes to 30 minutes. Emerging cost estimate between £6.5 billion and £10 billion. New routes.

• Leeds to Hull, down from 55 minutes to 28 minutes. Emerging cost estimate between £5.5 billion and £9 billion. New route.

• Leeds to Newcastle, journey times of 70-80 minutes. Emerging cost estimate of between £1 billion and £4 billion. Upgrade/cut-off.

• Sheffield to Hull, in times of around 60 minutes, down from 86 minutes. Upgrade existing route.

The emerging cost estimates “are provided at Q1 2015 prices, and are the result of early work” while each option has been estimated as a standalone proposal.

Osborne said: “Connecting up the great cities of the North is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern powerhouse. This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the North and we will work closely with TfN to help make it a reality.

“From backing high-speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the North, our ambitious plans for transport means we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity.”

The report, the government explains, sets out a long-term strategy to connect Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull with a “network of high quality rail connections”. The ‘TransNorth’ network could see journey times between Manchester and Liverpool as low as 20 minutes; Manchester to Sheffield and Leeds could be as low as 30 minutes, and Leeds to Hull could be travelled in 45 minutes according to plans set out in the report. Additionally, journey times from Manchester to Newcastle could be cut by 25 per cent.

Plans also laid out in the report include:

 The delivery of HS2 in the North sooner. This would be achieved, the government says, by preparing a dedicated Hybrid Bill that would be laid down in the next Parliament. HS2 would be delivered sooner to Crewe, too.

The government to take immediate action to simplify rail fares across the North “by streamlining the system of regulated fares”.

Major road improvements, including the expansion of the M62 between Leeds and Machester to four lanes; upgrade M6 to four lanes and improve the A1.

• Work will begin on improving connections between Manchester Airport and the surrounding cities to boost international links.

Sir Richard Leese, chair of the TfN partnership board and leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The cities of the North are individually strong, and increasingly have the tools to grow, but by working together they can be stronger than the sum of their parts. This new report sets out how that can be delivered through a long-term investment plan in rail, the important relationship between HS2 and regional rail services as well as roads, ports, and airports - covering both passengers and freight.”

In response to the report, Centre for Cities said that the plans are a positive step forward, “demonstrating the government’s understanding of the critical role that infrastructure – particularly if integrated with housing, employment and skills policies – could play in improving the economic performance of the North of England”.

“It is only through a truly integrated transport body, with oversight across multiple forms of transport, as well as ticketing and regulation, that the UK’s Northern cities will be able to benefit from the same kind of connectivity as offered by Transport for London, which has played a strong role in the economic prosperity of London and surrounding cities in recent years. Cities with robust and efficient transport connections are more attractive places to do business, and are better positioned to access and attract the skilled workers and investment required for growth.”