Metro mayors call on government to prioritise HS3 over Crossrail 2 plans

The two newly elected metro mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region have called on the government to prioritise rail investment in the north by committing to building the HS3 rail link, alternatively known as Northern Powerhouse Rail, before work begins on Crossrail 2.

The pair have called on Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and prime minister Theresa May to match Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to drive transport investment by ensuring that better rail links are built in the north of England.

It follows MPs from the APPG of London warning in March that progress being made with Crossrail 2 was at risk of being delayed by ambitions from northern cities for the east-west HS3 link.

But now Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have asserted that a push for better northern rail links must be a top priority for the next government, particularly with improving east-west links and creating better connections for Liverpool and Manchester’s airports.

“It cannot be right that a journey from Manchester Piccadilly to Newcastle can take the best part of three hours, particularly when London to Paris can be done in the same amount of time,” said Burnham, Greater Manchester mayor. “A 21st century economy needs 21st century infrastructure.” 

Burnham also stated that despite promises made to the area through the Northern Powerhouse, road and rail systems were still creaking as a lack of infrastructure investment was holding back the economy.

And Liverpool City Region metro mayor, Steve Rotheram, said: “Liverpool and Manchester built the world’s first ever passenger railway nearly 200 years ago, and there is a compelling logical and economic case for better and faster connectivity between the two cities.

“We desperately need additional capacity and better infrastructure if we are going to realise the full potential of our two great cities and create an urban economy with the critical mass to balance London.

“This is a vital piece of investment for the wider region and for our country as a whole.”

In February, think-tank IPPR North also made the call for greater commitment to HS3, which was seen as a crucial step in closing the north-south divide in rail investment.

IPPR North also revealed that investment in Crossrail alone amounted to £4.7bn in 2016-17, compared to £6.6bn that was spent in total on every transport project in the north in the same year.


Jimbo   16/05/2017 at 11:40

So how much are the Greater Manchester and Liverpool City regions going to contribute to this piece of infrastructure which directly improves their regions ? Crossrail 2 is partially funded by the London region, so are they going to match that level of funding in their region ? Assuming the Conversatives win the election next month, I wonder if support for the "Nothern Powerhouse" project will start to fade as a result of there being labour mayors. On the other hand, a Midlands Powerhouse might get more funding as Birmingham voted for a Conversative Mayor. If anyone expects politics to be fair, then they don't know how people work.

Graham Nalty   16/05/2017 at 12:10

London has already had Thameslink upgrades AND Crossrail. Let us have some real investment in the North and Midlands, such as new high speed lines linking Leeds, Bradford Manchester and Sheffield, and linked to the Midlands by expanding the Midlands Main line electrification programme. And let this also take priority for funds over HS2 Stage one which will mainly benefit London.

David   16/05/2017 at 16:35

It really shouldn't be a case of competing for a shrinking pot of funds, all of these large-scale infrastructure projects are equal in importance... shame the Tories don't seem to see it that way.

Jimbo   16/05/2017 at 17:13

If you really want HS3, then fund a fully costed proposal with a positive cost-benefit analysis and present it for approval. TfL and the London Mayor has done this for Crossrail 2, so you are behind them in the queue unless you have a proper proposal. Also, it helps if you vote for the same party as is in power because it is easier to make deals with your own people, rather than be part of the opposition. It is worth noting that since Sadiq Khan won the London mayorship, Crossrail 2 has become stuck. So if you want HS3 anytime soon, fund a proper proposal and vote for the Conservatives on June 8th. Otherwise it is never going to happen.

Lutz   16/05/2017 at 18:48

Lots of adjectives, but they are lacking a sense of proportion. London is first tier Global city, Paris a second tier. Newcastle is not even a third tier regional city. In addition; what exactly is HS3 supposed to be? The planning for CR2 is at an advanced stage, but they are still looking at un-costed options for HS3.

Lutz   16/05/2017 at 18:53

@Graham Nalty What about all that money that went into the WCML upgrade, and on the upgrade to Manchester Piccadilly, and the on-going work around the Manchester Hub? Manchester and Liverpool combined are less than half the size of Greater London, and travel is still heavily subsidised on Merseyrail to encourage people to use it. So where is the need? London and the South East.

Jb   16/05/2017 at 19:12

Before these multi-billion £ projects are endlessly haggled over, I wonder if we might at last see approval given to the proposed 11.5 mile Skipton to Colne link re-opening? Described in the House of Commons on 26th April last as a 'no-brainer' by local MP Andrew Stephenson, it met with the enthusiastic support of the Rail Minister.Paul Maynard. This protected trackbed would provide a central East-West trans-Pennine corridor for passenger and freight thus relieving pressure on existing more southerly routes and provide resilience during future modernisation works. All for a comparatively modest cost..

Redrows   16/05/2017 at 19:28

Well said Jb. Straightforward, non-political business case giving a quick win for an immediate value delivery.

James Palma   16/05/2017 at 20:10

Someonehit the nail on the head above. Both Crossrail 2 and having efficient railways across the country are important. But compare how many people would use which routes. Newcastle to Manchester v London south west suburbs and outlying towns and villages to central London and North East London suburbs and outlying towns and villages to central London. I am afraid the demand in London far far out ways travel in northern England. but that is not to say that the transport networks should not be improved there.

Nonsuchmike   16/05/2017 at 23:30

Most of the comments given here are valid. There is a strong case for HS3 to start now, before HS2 (rather like Beethovens' 6th & 5th symphonies), and there is also the strong case based on large scale usage in the SE for CR2 which seems ahead in the planning and documentation stages. Part of the disparity is that the prices charged in the SE are put up with by people because they have to travel somehow and roads around/through London make for appalling traffic jams. In the north, people tend to choose to travel by car, as to them rail prices seem far higher as a proportion of their disposable income. Perhaps a spell of good PR and special offers will help dispel this myth, but only if the TOCs can see the wood from the trees and realise they have to build up their clientele loyalty by regular longer trains and not just by sticking more shops around a station and calling that investment in the railways - it isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, it is retail greed.

Simhedges   17/05/2017 at 20:17

London has had crossrail and Thameslink, overground improvements and, HS1 is planned in order to make Birmingham a suburb of London. Then there is the Tube upgrades. The more transport capacity has, the more London grows, the more people it sucks in, and the more it needs more transport capacity. The UK is severely unbalanced in favour of the Great Wen. So fund transport infrastructure in the North to enable Manchester and the surrounding cities, to provide an engine of growth in the North. Oh, and extend HS2 to Edinburgh and Glasgow while you are at it. London is one of the richest cities on earth - if it wants Crossrail 2, it can afford to fully fund it.

John Burns   18/05/2017 at 18:26

Currently, there are twice as many passengers travelling from Manchester to Liverpool as Manchester to Leeds. Also, Liverpool needs extra rail capacity for its new large container terminal.  Last week the largest ship ever that has traversed the newly widened Panama Canal held 13,000 containers, up from 5,000 before the widening. This is a game changer for freight movements. Liverpool is ideally placed. Liverpool's terminal can handle ships holding 19,000 containers. Liverpool needs extra rail capacity for freight ASAP. Building the Liverpool to Manchester leg first is essential for the economy for the whole of the North of England as freight cost will be cheaper via Liverpool and faster. Also the Liverpool cruise liner business is set to greatly expand meaning thousands of cruisers from the North of England need not travel the arduous trip to Southampton. This now `Crossrail`, rather than a High-Speed line (HS3), needs a Pennines `base` tunnel emerging around Barnsley serving Leeds and Sheffield equally and then running onto Hull. A `base tunnel runs from `flat` land to `flat` land either side of a hill or mountain giving greater speed. `Base` tunnels are common in the Alps and elsewhere. The Pennines  has needed one for 150 years.   Piccadilly station in Manchester, which faces the wrong way, can be decommissioned and a larger state-of-the-art `through` station built at Manchester Victoria, like at Berlin, to eliminate the rail bottleneck at Manchester. All rail services in Manchester will then be centred on one station for ease of connections.  It is a no-brainer to build the Liverpool section of a `Crossrail` (HS3) ASAP - even if the other section is not even designed.

J, Leicester   22/05/2017 at 15:37

A number of odd conclusions in your post there, John. First up, I'm not sure how HS3 is going to free up rail capacity for freight into and out of Liverpool Docklands without either moving local services to the new high-speed route, defeating its purpose, or shifting freight onto the Merseyrail network and subsequently cutting metropolitan services. High Speed Rail isn't a magic panacea to rail congestion in the Liverpool - Manchester corridor area, unless you can somehow replace those local services without impacting on journey times on HS3. Also, in the scheme of things, I'm not sure a Transatlantic ferry going to Southampton instead of Liverpool could be described as undertaking an "arduous" journey - it's a drop in the ocean distance-wise (pun intended) and if anything it's more convenient for any ship coming from south of the UK to dock on the South Coast. It would also be absolute madness to decommission Manchester Piccadilly given that it is by far the busiest interchange in the city - where are all those hundreds of daily services from 6 separate TOCs going to go, exactly? As nice as it would be to have one station in the centre of the city, it's logistically next-to-impossible at this point without making the whole thing a sprawling subterranean mess. The world doesn't need another Birmingham New Street, which is still a horrid station to catch a train from despite its shiny new concourse, and you'd only create another bottleneck when future capacity increases are needed. As much as HS3 will be a good thing, I'm not convinced that its benefits will be in line with those you suspect.

Michael King   24/05/2017 at 18:12

The North needs these projects. Dare I say I also like the Sheffield to Manchester tunnel idea using , er, a different transport mode.

John Burns   25/05/2017 at 18:00

@J, Leicester HS3 can take the prime Liverpool-Manchester traffic and all other non-Liverpool City Region traffic into Liverpool: London, Leeds, Scotland, etc, etc. The 1830 Liverpool-Manchester line is then largely free, which gives access to the WCML. The electrified track from Liverpool to Wigan, which most likely will be on Merseyrail (it was scheduled to be), when the tunnel from Edge Hill to Central station is recommissioned, is on its own tracks alongside the 1830 line. A few old lines into the port may needed to be reused to make matters easier. Merseyrail need not be touched, except probably running freight at night. For cruise liner passengers travelling from the North of England and Scotland to Southampton is an `arduous` trip, compared to dropping into nearby Liverpool. Liverpool has an unused platform at an underground station at the waterfront. Right to the ship! Manchester Piccadilly faces the wrong way and is an inefficient terminal station. Having terminal stations in inland cities is ludicrous. Decommissioning is the best option, consolidating all at a new state-of-the-art `through-station` at Victoria station. Common sense has to prevail and all this inefficient, expensive to maintain, Victorian infrastructure got rid of. Manchester is a rail bottleneck. Getting rid of Piccadilly solves it. BTW, HS2 Ltd admitted they pay people to be on the Internet promoting HS2 and monitoring feedback. They are called `Astroturfers`.

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