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
    +5

    Comment number 1086.

    By the time any major infrastucture project has been held up by red tape nimbies public enquiries.Mostly headed by Lord some body or other.It costs double and does not do the job.In the beaucratic moras we live in it is all hot air.London needs deflating and the sooner the better for us all.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1085.

    Building a railway with foreign sleepers, rails, chairs, signals to run foreign trains will not help the UK a jot.
    Reopen the Beeching closed stations and especially the goods yards to free our roads.
    Sort out fares so we can use the trains.
    Reopen the coal mines, steel plants, ship yards and factories, realise with proper modern machines we CAN compete

  • Comment number 1084.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1083.

    What about the cities North of Manchester , anyone would think this idiot only had a degree in History not Geography with the utter shambles they have created !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1082.

    The north east needs to get rid of labour, they have done nothing but damage, i know i come from the NE, yet they will vote them back in time and again, they blame the tories for the things that labour create and destroy. HS3 would at least attract business, as long as labour councils don't drive them away. It is sad but oh so true, labour are the real enemy of the north

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1081.

    I can just picture the frantic corporate lobbying going on behind the scenes. Too often government responds to the whispers of lobbyists before the shouts of the people.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1080.

    The 70 miles York to Manchester currently takes 1hr 23mins, London to Peterborough, 85 miles, less than an hour. A sub-hour trip York to Manchester would be a massive improvement and open up a lot of possibilities. Passenger volumes would really grow though so there would need to be plenty of capacity.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1079.

    Parties in Government - STOP talking or giving statements. Execute what is need for the FUTURE!!! (Greater) London is already congested and pathetic and no more development can happen there and putting people and country in trouble with the economy, SECURITY, future generations.. For future of the country, you need a second city like other countries have..THINK for the country and the People..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1078.

    Why doesn't the government grow a pair and roll out plans to link up all of the major cities in the UK?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1077.

    We can find Billions to upgrade the rail system that are used by some but we can find diddly squat for the road system that is the equal to a third world country, which the vast majority of use use daily..

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1076.

    @928.Baaquack "I live in the South East but born elsewhere and it beggers belief the amount of people here who just cannot grasp that north of the Watford Gap does not constitute the whole of "The North"."
    ________

    I too live in the South East and it beggars belief just how many people up north like to believe we're all so much better off we are down here in the "affluent South"! Dream on!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1075.

    Can't we just have some trains between towns and cities that don't stop at other stations? That would cut journey times down dramatically without the need for expensive new infrastructure.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1074.

    "nmit1412
    You can't work with Could's - you need Definite's"

    Well, you'd never have invested in the WWW in that case. Or the mobile phone, portable MP3 players, the personal computer or any number of transformational technologies we take for granted. You may be a businessman but you ain't an entrepreneur.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1073.

    As town populations are on the rise and more people have to travel for work, then re-establishment of key branch lines around UK into the network, plus the upgrading of stations and tunnels on the main lines should be the priority and would deliver a better infrastructure to support the economy rather than a very expensive pet project for politicians trying to leave a 'legacy'.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 1072.

    Who are these people who seem to think that faster internet connection is the answer to every ill? OK so kids can post pictures of their cats on Facebook and the porn industry could post even more repulsive dross, but does it really help real industry?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1071.

    Once again Osbourne and the Tories seem to think of an idea to gain voters from the north, then forget that it extends a few hundred miles further. What about the north east and two of the most productive cities in the country in Sunderland and Newcastle. If only the north east could be included in the Scottish independence vote, maybe political parties would see how they are viewed up here.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1070.

    You can tell an election is on the way when the goverenment start talking about disparity in the North. Don't worry it will be business as usual after the election with London continuing to swallow all the cash generated.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1069.

    #1058 the idea that all that is needed for people to work together is high speed internet is just plain wrong. Businesses do not operate in London because the internet is faster. They move there because the people you need to work with, lawyers, financiers, accountants, universities, IT specialists or whatever are close at hand. High value added business is about people working together.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1068.

    Train operators lease the carriages they use, not own them. Leasing costs are classed as an operating expense so a large portion of that cost are deducted from pre-tax profits so effectively the taxpayer is paying a subsidy to the operator for the poor conditions we travel in.

    If you want the taxpayer to pick up the tab, nationalise the railway so we actually benefit & not shareholders!!!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1067.

    654. NorthWest_Business man et al. If you believe that speeding up travel between 2 cities, for a few hundred people every day, will make a jot of difference to the economy of the north, or anywhere else for that matter, you are deluding yourself. The ones that are enthusing for this have simply spotted an opportunity to make a gain for themselves

 

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