High-speed rail link needed to boost north - Osborne


George Osborne: "The cities of the north together can be greater than the sum of their parts"

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A so-called HS3 high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds could help to create a "northern global powerhouse", George Osborne has said.

He told the BBC better road and rail links would allow cities across northern England from Liverpool to Hull "to take on the world", as London did.

The chancellor said the plan could cost up to £7bn - but could be cheaper if existing rail lines were updated.

Labour said "nobody" believed the Tories could deliver jobs in the north.

Mr Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme - before a speech in Manchester - that the cities in the North of England were individually strong but were "collectively not strong enough".

He said that in the past few decades giant global cities, such as London, had emerged - and that the string of northern cities, with better transport links and careful planning, could take them on and be "greater than the sum of their parts".

Current rail journey times

  • Leeds-Manchester: 49 mins (36 miles/58km)
  • Liverpool-Manchester: 32 mins (31 miles/50km)
  • Hull-Leeds: 55 mins (31 miles/50km)
  • Reading-London: 28 mins (37 miles/59km)
  • Chelmsford-London: 34 mins (30 miles/49km)
  • Luton-London: 23 mins (29 miles/47km)

Approximate fastest times. Source: National Rail Enquiries

Mr Osborne said the building of the east-west link should be considered as part of a review into the second phase of the £50bn HS2 high-speed rail project.

The current plan for the first phase of the project between London and Birmingham has proved controversial. Some residents are set to be disrupted and there is criticism of its price tag.

The government's preferred route for the second phase involves extensions linking Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds - with the final route expected to be chosen by the end of this year.

Mr Osborne said in his speech that it was not "healthy for our economy, not good for our country" if "the powerhouse of London dominates more and more".

Along with improving roads - the M62 already links Liverpool on the west coast with Hull on the east coast, via Manchester and Leeds - Mr Osborne says a new high-speed rail link should be considered, based on the existing rail route but with new tunnels and infrastructure.

Map of HS2 with additional possible HS3 link The green line between Manchester and Leeds shows the existing route which Mr Osborne says could form the basis for a new high speed link

The fastest rail services between Leeds and Manchester currently take about 50 minutes - already quicker than many journeys across London.

The plan would be to cut this to 30 minutes, with trains travelling at up to 140mph, compared with the current maximum of 90mph and the 225mph maximum speed for the fastest bit of HS2.

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

Richard Westcott reports on some of the problems the HS3 project may encounter

"I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds."

Start Quote

Those who hate Britain's lopsided London-centricity might want to think about the idea of promoting the creation of a far bigger second city”

End Quote

A spokesman for Nick Clegg welcomed Mr Osborne's plan, adding that the deputy prime minister had long believed Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield "should become a 'Northern golden triangle' to drive economic growth in the North".

He said: "George Osborne's new found commitment today is welcome and we are now hopeful that he will match his words with action by backing the Leeds City Region growth deal and its proposals for better transport links to other cities across the North."

But CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall gave a cautious welcome: "Better east-west links in the north could provide a huge boost to local businesses, and help further balance the UK economy by creating a northern hub.

"However, any proposals need careful planning. The priority must be boosting connections, not speed. We need to see more detail for such a project, which must be good value for money for the taxpayer."

BBC political correspondent Vicki Young says Conservative support in the North of England has been declining and Mr Osborne's statement will be seen as an attempt to show the party is keen to increase prosperity beyond its traditional strongholds in the south.

There is, however, little detail about how these plans would be funded, and Mr Osborne said he did not yet have timescales - but he wanted "to start a conversation".

"A true powerhouse requires true power," says Chancellor George Osborne

Mr Osborne also told the BBC he wanted to see new positions of elected mayoralties being created - including one for Greater Manchester along the lines of London's - to help drive forward economic growth in the north.

Detail from high speed rail map

Maps of the HS2 route on the project's website

For Labour, shadow chancellor Mr Balls said regional growth divides had "widened markedly since 2010", when the coalition government was formed.

"On high-speed rail, we said months ago that we need value for money for the taxpayer and to improve the existing plans to maximise the benefits for the whole country, and strengthen the links between northern cities.

"Ministers need finally to start listening."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    I love the North, cobbled streets, clogs and flat caps, whippets and real ale, the men are quite cute as well. Don't we need to connect the North to the electricity grid before we think about HS3. Pftt the Tories haven't thought this through have they. Doh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    First things first, we new a new whippet track.

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    862.Jack Napier
    Not true. HS2 takes a full hour off the Manchester-London time.

    Newcastle has not been forgotten, 2 trains an hour via HS2 to London Euston saving 32 mins in each direction. Edinburgh and Glasgow, two trains an hour each via HS2 saving about an hour on a normal journey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    A plan which should be implemented as soon as possible, and should include Liverpool. Current journey times between the main centres could be halved.

    But claims about London draining life out of other UK cities are rubbish. If London was not successful businesses located there would move to another global centre and huge amounts of income and tax revenue would be lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    The North does not need a High Speed Rail Link between Manchester and Leeds per se.

    What is does need is modernisation and electrification of the primary routes and services between the north's major towns cities in order to provide an acceptably fast and frequent service.

    This may involve upgrading of existing routes, reopening some closed lines and in places new section of railway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    Lunacy .... spend a load of all our monies so that a small number of folks can cut half an hour off a journey.. Whilst other folks are being fed from food banks.

    Oh and BBC where is the coverage of the march this weekend?
    Barking Mad

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    I well remember the tory logic for privatising the railways was to draw private money in.

    So I'm all for this - which won't, of course, cost the taxpayer a penny, or place any risk on the public purse. Unless Osborne is an utter pillock, or his predecessors monumental liars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    I'm beginning to think politicians are just making bets with each other to see who can make the most ridiculous statement and get away with it.

    George just won this time, his mates will definitely be getting the drinks in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    I'm sorry but wonder why there is unrest with Scottish people? Wales, NI and Scotland again not qualifying for another 'British' project.

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    @843 Firstly, BA doesn't spend tens of billions of tax payers money on jets.

    Secondly, There are many independent panels who question the economic benefits of HS2, citing there is no evidence to suggest saving 25-30 mins is going to justify £45bn +. Let alone HS3.

    Thirdly, Rail travel is eye wateringly expensive, Despite public money being used, many agree train prices will increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    You can definitely smell an election coming! Infrastructural investment up North?? What are they thinking?!?

    On a serious note, wouldn't it be better to have a decent rail system up north first, before the expensive joining of the dots between north and south?

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    861. Jeremy Lee

    ha ha ha

    What about:

    Gosh isn't this tricky, what can we find which shows the government have any plans but to feather their own pockets after recent scandals:

    Chinese nuclear power - guaranteed high price for 30 yrs
    Fracking - said to lower bills but it won't
    Sell off of Post Office at knock down price
    Soon to be Lloyds too
    Privatisation by stealth of the NHS


  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    If only the Olympics had been held 'up North' then they could have enjoyed all the legacy. Oh hang on - there was none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    The North East is lagging well behind the rest of the country in the apparent turn around of the economy. Its prospects will not be helped by a high speed rail link that does not extend beyond the M62 corridor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    Building a fast rail link will not, in itself, create a whole load of jobs for the people of the North. We need some proper jobs created, Large scale manufacturing or industrial jobs which were once our staple are no longer here. HS3 will become another white elephant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    He still does not give a strong case for the white elephant .. Just which one of these bods wishes this shambles to be his epitaph ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    It's about time! The investment which is concentrated in London has drawn in millions of extra people that we don't have the space or housing for. And I resent the fact that property is being pushed way out of the reach of all but the wealthiest Londoners, Russians, Chinese and Arabs. London used to be the capital of the UK, now it's just a safe haven for the world's rich, at locals' expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    So still no plans for Scotland, Wales or the South West then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    Rail travel in UK is hopeless. Last time I used it (2002), it took approx 3 hours to get from Edinburgh to Newcastle. Going by car, it's an easy 2 hour drive through glorious border country. A friend came over from California -- tried the train from Edinburgh to London ( never got there !! ) - damaged overhead cables. Complete disaster. Rip the lines up and build some decent motorways !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    Here in Southport in the north a town with a population of 95k you can make one change via Manchester or two via Liverpool to catch an intercity train to somewhere other than Manchester or Leeds. I cannot think of ANYWHERE in the south where such a situation exists, and perhaps that is why there is such cynacism about HS2 and 3. Basic transport isn't being met here, let alone fancy stuff.


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