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05.08.14

Northern cities set out £15bn transport improvement plan

A coalition of major northern cities has published a new £15bn transport plan, which it believes could deliver benefits including journey times up to 55% on a more interconnected rail network. 

Launched by an alliance of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield, the report ‘One North: A Proposition for an interconnected North’ proposes to deliver new trains running on a 125mph TransPennine rail-link, a faster route to Newcastle and better access to ports and airports. 

Presented to chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne MP and HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins at Beetham Tower in Manchester, the 15-year investment plan has been developed to complement the current HS2 proposals. 

However, the alliance also calls for a high quality (fast and frequent) intercity rail network joining the centres of the city regions. This would require a new Trans Pennine route and a faster route to Newcastle to provide the additional capacity and better connectivity the alliance members are seeking for the North’s economy. 

The improved regional rail networks would provide additional capacity and help sustain growth, especially when interconnected with HS2 and intercity services plus local tram networks and more park and ride facilities. New rolling stock, which is seen as a priority, electrification of existing lines, higher service frequencies and addressing pinch-points on the rail network also form part of the report. 

There has also been a call for a digital infrastructure enabling real-time information, greater network resilience and faster connections between key areas to personal and business users. 

Alliance members also want to ensure that ‘good access’ enables the efficient and timely movement of large quantities of freight by rail, road and water covering not only ports, rail links and large distribution centres but also light commercial vehicles and airports for premium logistics. 

The partners also believe that building HS2 early – extending phase 1 of HS2 to Crewe as envisaged in ‘HS2 Plus’ and bringing forward delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield would be beneficial in being a “key catalyst for northern city regeneration”. 

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 unco-ordinated. 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.” 

Key economic benefits are expected to include the north becoming a destination of choice for investors, connecting businesses with workers and workers with jobs, higher levels of productivity and competition with new infrastructure supporting trade and industry. 

In response to the report, Osborne said: “Today I give you this personal commitment. Work with me over the coming months and together we will make a reality of the plan I’ve set out for the Northern Powerhouse. I’m ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science. And real new civic power too. 

He added that the Northern Powerhouse strategy will form the centrepiece of his Autumn Statement – and part of the government’s long-term economic plan for the country. 

“First we’ll take today’s report and work on delivering its component parts: Extra motorway capacity; better rolling stock; more efficient freight routes from our ports; local metro and tram improvements; and faster and better rail connections across the north,” said Osborne. 

It was stated that in October, Sir David Higgins will publish a government-commissioned report on the northern phase of HS2. “He’s taken on board my request to look at a new high speed route across the Pennines. An HS3,” said Osborne. “Your work today is, in part of course, a contribution to David’s ongoing work – with your ideas for high speed cross-Pennine rail and bringing the benefits of the existing HS2 proposal to the north more quickly.” 

Following the launch of the report, the partner cities will continue to work closely together and with key partners including Network Rail, the Highways Agency, HS2 and the government itself to develop the report into a phased and integrated investment programme. 

(Image: c. Joe Mott) 

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