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 966.

    I will vote for a party which listens to and takes account of the views of the electorate.

    This rules out the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    Not surprising that Scotland gets neglected and we'll be helping to foot the bill for it. Sooner the Yes vote comes in the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    So Osborne has finally discovered there is life beyond Watford great news , but what does he mean by the North ?? Maybe he should look at a map . Its well known that investment in infrastructure in the north is only half that per head as opposed to the south east maybe he should tell us all what the figures are for Scotland which I presume is in the North better together ha ha .

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    You cant send Ships Containers down a FO cable. The number of passengers wanting to travel has doubled since privatisation and continues to climb. These lines are badly needed, the only thing thats wrong is the timescale, it needs to be halved, so lets get on with it now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    Another overpriced infrastructure project which no doubt plenty of Tories have shares in. Bring on the General Election, better still a revolution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    How is this being funded? Just found this [1], which talks of "commercial funding", but also "50/50 local community participation", but just what does that mean?

    [1] http://www.railroadinvest.com/downloads_2014/railroad_march2014.pdf

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    I agree with 567. Steve. High speed broadband would be more beneficial to businesses. You don't have to live in London to run a successful business, but you do need a good internet connection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    Julie @ 940. Building a rail link that will encourage businesses to invest in the north, that will give northern working people jobs to pay for mortgages, bring up children is not a vanity project. These new jobs will create new jobs which will employ people who pay income tax which will help pay for the NHS. This investment in trains will contribute far more cash to the NHS over the long term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    Nothern powerhouse? Not whilst we have such a southern bias on everything from investment to culture arts etc. I work in IT and 95% of vacancies for jobs are based in London and a part of the M4 corridor. So much so, I don't even bother looking any more.

    Want to go to a conference? Go to London, want to join a professional body? Its base din London don't you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    HS3 seems to make significantly more sense than HS2. East west travel across the pennies is notoriously poor. The price tag is significantly less than HS2 as well. Preston - Euston can be done in about 2hrs now so traveling to London from the North isn't really a problem why not build HS3 first. Ah I suspect there is no obvious direct benefit to Londoners only that strange breed of northerners

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    At least the Tories propose spending our money on improving infrastructure. Labour spent 12 years blowing all of our cash on a massively bloated public sector, welfafe and tax credit scroungers and any number of "Labour-luvvie" pet projects. The Tories at least have some vision, Labour just looks after it's own and adds debt

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    This is an equity release scheme to help the construction lobby get its desire to gradually build on thousands of sq miles of open countryside.
    Unsustainable madness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    Perhaps we should sort out the mess that constitutes our current rail system before we look into the future? HS2 and HS3 would be good ideas if we lived in a world where we could a) afford them, b) ensure that they would be built on time and on budget and c) make them run efficiently. As it stands, none of the three are guaranteed, so let's wait until they are before jumping into it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    HS1, HS2 and HS3 were ALL devised by the European Union"

    And the fact the EU regards having good transportation links between and within its members so goods and people can be transported more efficiently is to be regarded with suspicion because of what exactly? Wow, our motorways even have "E" designation! These rail links were part of the original goals of the Channel Tunnel link.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    941. David McLaren
    I think you will find Manc & Leeds North England. Scotland btw gets too much of the UK taxpayers money as is and we pray for the Yes vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    People in the North are directly responsible for the development of inter-city railways in Great Britain - I believe it was a chap from Wylam...

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    I agree with the view that it's a complete waste - and with the view that it's an answer to yesterday's problems.

    Business needs 1GB minimum internet speed NOW - that's what will put all parts of the UK (what's left of it) at the forefront of international business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    Could we maybe remember that over half of this island is north of Leeds when planning yet more expensive infrastructure projects?

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    We need to walk before we can run. That is, we need a triple lane motorway between Newcastle and Leeds and an East side connector point between England and Scotland.

    Unbelievably most of the East side road between England and Scotland (Edinburgh) is single lane only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    Almost 50 years ago we (along with the French) built an aircraft which (up to) halved journey times to major world cities.

    That was almost 50 years ago!

    Trouble was it was environmentally unfriendly and only accessible, therefore beneficial, to the wealthy.

    It's nothing more than a museum piece now

    Faster isn't always better ;-)


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