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Connecting Manchester and Leeds would drive growth, says report

Words: Laura Edgar

A new Centre for Cities report singles out improved rail links between Manchester and Leeds as the first major step in turning the ‘Northern powerhouse’ political rhetoric into reality.

Fast Track To Growth – Transport Priorities For Stronger Cities (pdf), which is supported by the Department for Transport, says that by connecting Manchester and Leeds by rail, two of the biggest and most successful cities in the North would create a significant Northern economy that would be dynamic, attractive to businesses and able to drive growth.

This, the report explains, would complement and strengthen investment already planned, including HS2.

Improved connections that are faster and more frequent would enable businesses to share knowledge and services, and 90,000 highly skilled local workers would find an increased number of job opportunities that are higher paid and more professional, it adds.

Alexandra Jones, CEO at Centre for Cities, said: “The Manchester to Leeds route currently takes almost twice as long to travel as the longer distance between London and Milton Keynes. The capital’s rail connections to neighbouring cities have played an important part in building strong and successful economies across the South-East, and the evidence strongly suggests that Manchester and Leeds would benefit enormously from quicker and more frequent connections. This is a critically important, well-overdue upgrade that should be the first stage of delivering on the government’s ambition to build a Northern powerhouse.”

Further to improving rail links between cities, Fast Track To Growth also highlights the need for better transport within the largest cities in the UK, connecting workers who live outside the city centre with job opportunities.

Jones added that the report reveals the critical role transport has to play in developing city economies.

“There is no doubt that the UK has pressing infrastructure challenges, and in a time of continued fiscal constraint, government must phase investment, prioritising areas where it can have the greatest impact.”

It takes 49 minutes to travel from Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds, a distance of 43 miles whereas the 50-mile train from London Euston to Milton Keynes takes just half an hour.