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HS3? Chancellor outlines need for Manchester-Leeds high-speed rail

George Osborne is to announce that the government is exploring a third high-speed railway to link cities in the north of England.

Details are unsurprisingly thin on the ground, but the Chancellor’s team has suggested the line would be based on existing routes, upgraded with new tunnels and infrastructure. There is no suggested timescale, nor budget.

But journalists have been briefed that, speaking in Manchester today, the Chancellor will say: “The cities of the north are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts. So the powerhouse of London dominates more and more. And that’s not healthy for our economy. It’s not good for our country.

“We need a northern powerhouse too. Not one city, but a collection of northern cities – sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world. Able to provide jobs and opportunities and security to the many, many people who live here, and for whom this is all about.

“We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west – to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city.”

The need for improved east-west connectivity in the north was a key point raised by Sir David Higgins in his HS2 Plus report earlier this year, and Network Rail is already trying to tackle the problem by investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the Northern Hub upgrades.

Construction work on HS2 begins in 2017, with the full Y-shaped network open by 2032.

Richard Threlfall, partner and UK head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG, said: "HS3 has the potential to spread our economic wealth across the country and can be compared to bold and visionary schemes such as the M25 and the Channel Tunnel. Today’s announcement recognises that a massive intervention by government is needed to reverse the drain of the UK's economy from the North to the South.

"Over the last 10 years, according to ONS data, the North's share of the UK's economic output has fallen by more than 5%. This trend will continue unless we strive to share our country’s economic success beyond the South East.  HS3 recognises the dismal state of links between the UK's Northern cities today. It takes about the same time to reach Liverpool from Leeds as it does to get to London from Leeds, even though it is less than half the distance. 

"We have for too long invested billions of pounds more in the South than the North –  throwing money at our strongest region and abandoning our weakest. The UK currently invests as much in infrastructure in London in two days as it invests in Manchester in a year. HS3 should finally turn the tide and help the North regain its historic prominence in the UK economy.

"HS3 is the missing link to create a true high speed rail network in the UK. It should run between our major port cities of Liverpool and Hull, and connect up Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and York, then up to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

"The distance between Manchester and Leeds is no longer than the Central Line in London - there is no reason why our northern cities should not operate as one economic powerhouse provided they are properly connected up.”

(Library image shows Osborne on a visit to Manchester in March 2014. Photography: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire) 


Nonsuchmike   27/06/2014 at 18:19

Forgive me if I am being obtuse, but wasn't that the supposed whole idea of HS2? To connect up communities and centres of business in the midlands and the north was surely the aim of that proposed line. Ready to take passengers in - wait for it - 2033; almost tomorrow in Government planning terms it would seem, but well after I start pushing up daisies. Now it turns out that HS2 is to be a sort of West Coast relief railway, and the latest thing to come out of the joined up thinking of our revered Chancellor's speech writers is more like a Northern Crossrail than a definitive High speed link for freight and passengers. All that money, but they won't improve the trans-Pennine link by re-tracking the former line through Skipton, upgrading the Hebden Bridge/Todmorden links, or more southerly routes through to Sheffield. Don't get me wrong, people from Hull who want to go to Liverpool and vice versa deserve a) a more regular and frequent service; b) longer, more comfortable, trains, but my guess is that if you asked 5 000 people from each City you would find they would rather have better connections to Leeds/Bradford, Blackpool and Birmingham, or the North Wales Coast, Scarborough and Skeggy than knock off 20 minutes in the running time to Euston and Kings Cross, or 6 minutes to Manchester.

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