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05/08/2014

Northern cities launch £15bn transport plan

Manchester

A £15 billion plan to improve road and rail connections in the North of England has been unveiled.

The 15-year plan, developed by a coalition of Northern cities, includes proposals for a 125 mph trans-Pennine rail-link, a faster route to Newcastle and better access to ports and airports.

A report One North: A Proposition for an interconnected North has been put together by an alliance of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield. It is in response to chancellor George Osborne’s calls for a “Northern Powerhouse” and HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins’ report HS2 Plus.

The report’s proposals include: 

• Increased road capacity for both freight and personal travel

• A very fast, frequent and high quality intercity rail network joining up city regions

• Improved regional rail networks

• New rolling stock

• A digital infrastructure

• Improved access for  freight movements

• Building HS2 early – extending Phase One to Crewe and bringing forward the delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield.

• Improving East/West rail freight capability across the Pennines, linking major ports to north/south rail routes.

The alliance of cities says that the plan would help rebalance the national economy, with 150 per cent extra capacity on roads and up to 55 per cent journey times on a faster, more frequent network.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "The current constraints on our transport networks, the product of years of neglect and under-investment, affect the competitiveness of the north. East-West journeys take almost twice as long as equivalent journeys in the south and our rail links are too slow and uncoordinated. Our motorways are congested, and there is an over-reliance on the M62.

"Addressing these limitations will require ambitious action, co-operation and a co-ordinated approach to strategic planning and investment, bringing together rail, road, water and freight and enabling the great cities of the north to be more than the sum of their parts. We need a new holistic approach to strategic investment and planning. The reward would be a substantially increased contribution to the national economy."

Osborne said he wanted to make the plan a reality, and that he would make it a centrepiece of his Autumn statement. “I’m ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science - and real new civic power too,” he said.

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