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23.12.15

HS3 now called Northern Powerhouse Rail, government confirms

The proposed east-west high-speed rail link planned for after HS2 will be called Northern Powerhouse Rail, transport minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon has revealed.

In a written answer to Lib Dem Lord Scriven, the former leader of Sheffield City Council, Lord Wimbledon used the name to refer to the government’s proposals for HS3.

Lord Scriven had asked about the timescale for the delivery of the HS3 scheme, and what budget would be allocated to it, to which the transport minister answered: “By March 2016, we will conduct an initial prioritisation of options to focus further work and inform the development of an appropriate timeline for implementation.

“The government has also established a new £300m Transport Development Fund, which following advice from the National Infrastructure Commission, could support the development of proposals such as Northern Powerhouse Rail (HS3).”

This term has recently come up in the Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) Autumn Report, which set out the body’s strategy and updates from its earlier report in March – but it was not so specifically linked to HS3.

In a joint foreword, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and the chair of TfN’s partnership board, Sir Richard Leese, said: “This report provides an update on our progress across the full range of the Northern Transport Strategy’s workstreams, including international connectivity, freight, smart and integrated ticketing, strategic local connectivity, strategic roads and developing Northern Powerhouse Rail – the fast, frequent, reliable and comfortable rail service needed to support a unified One North economy.”

Later, the report said: “We aim to radically improve the speed, frequency, capacity and comfort of rail services through development of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) network. This will strengthen both collaboration and competition between businesses, helping them to specialise and innovate, improve their products and increase their trade. NPR stations will be at the centre of development and regeneration schemes which will drive growth and employment opportunity.”

The term was also used in HS2 chair Sir David Higgins’ report on Leeds station, ‘The Yorkshire Hub’, which said: “The station needs to be able to accommodate improved services on our city region rail network, as well as the planned high speed Northern Powerhouse rail network.”

While most rail leaders are currently focused on HS2 – especially given the recent momentum of design and civils contract decisions – the government’s National Infrastructure Commission is already exploring options for NPR/HS3 and Crossrail 2.

Lord Adonis, speaking at RTM’s TransCity Rail North event last month, said these major infrastructure projects are likely to benefit from wider sources of funding, including private sector investment, rather than simply receiving money from the Treasury.

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