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 1246.

    1230.Henry Hazlitt

    Can't those born into your preferred system not say the same of it?
    Yes, because I'm not imposing any system on them. I may join like minded others, and anyone is free to join or leave. It's voluntary.
    So in your world a group could set up any system of their own choosing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1245.

    Perhaps the realisation is dawning on Tories that they are under genuine pressure from Mssrs Farage & Salmond, that the UK wants out of the EU & Scotland out of the UK. In both cases, consider London's SE location by the continent no longer being a usp in these Isles, & the North's location to England's newest & nearest EU border.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1244.

    I'm so very glad that I don't live anywhere near the routes planned for all three HS's, and can't understand this blinkered obsession that saving just a few minutes off a journey is more important than looking after what little countryside is left, quite apart from the upheaval for those directly affected. It is another example of the selfish few dominating government policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1243.

    Current rail journey times

    Leeds-Manchester: (58km)
    Liverpool-Manchester: (50km)
    Hull-Leeds: (50km)
    Reading-London: (59km)
    Chelmsford-London: (49km)
    Luton-London: 23 mins (47km)

    == Not too bad, I believe the ave. speed of Zimbawei rail is just above the UK ave, no too bad at all

  • rate this

    Comment number 1242.

    1225. R H Horn
    "Last but not least, get rid of those God awful pacers. Crap on wheels."

    If many Tories saw a Pacer, I don't think they would realise that it is a passenger train.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1241.

    How many in the north were demanding investment for London investment when the North was the industrial & economic powerhouse of the UK, until self destructed in the 70's. The UK no longer makes trains, save money & extend the TGV & save transfer time in London from one HS2 to HS TGV. Hook highspeed broadband up the lines as well & branch it off into all cities & towns on the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1240.

    Nationalise it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1239.

    I would not be surprised if the BBC were behind this story they have a total fixation with the North and in particular Manchester and Leeds. Still most of them are being paid expenses to travel there. IF ANY conurbation deserves it then the West Midlands is prime, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry along with West Bromwich, but then this area is not seen as sexy by Cammo, BBC and the trendies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1238.


    It is physically possible to run trains direct between Gatwick & Heathrow via West London Line.

    Yeah, I fear that this line being under-used is due to the Heathrow and Gatwick franchise agreements. Another way of squeezing money out of a service.

    We need travel hubs which are integrated. Birmingham Int for instance has the airport, train link both north and south and motorway links.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1237.

    UK infrastructure is so fragmented compared to other countries. I would like the government to have policies that show some long term vision to bring infrastructure up to 21st century standards. This can never happen while everything is operated by companies only interested in profit. The south east has run out of space, time to improve infrastructure across the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1236.

    Some of us remember the Heathrow Gatwick Helicopter service which the M25 was supposed to replace.

    Maybe we need a Liverpool/Manchester to Leeds Bradford Shuttle using regional jets? Trouble is LBA is not well connected to city center.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1235.

    Fantastic idea.....Use the peoples Taxes to pay an extra ordinary amount of money for a Rail Link.... but have a Private company manage the line, who will then overcharge the very people who paid for it in the 1st place!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1234.

    my resume of negative comments:

    567 steve: London does NOT struggle to compete with Paris -
    2Mbs? - get a new provider

    555 The Bareman - rail subsidy per Pmile is about 24p outside London and 5p inside London - Be Proud the UK has the ONLY global city in Europe

    282 Gibbo - the 'powers that be' have announced this project, how bizarre for you to say 'the powers that be would never do it'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1233.

    As Leeds citizen who travels to Manchester many times a year via M62/ M60, I can see the advantages of the HS3. However the cost could be very high and I believe it will only come to fruition when I will be 94 or 95.
    Nevertheless I am in favour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1232.

    They are having the same argument about HS rail in northern Italy. The people don't want it but the government is forcing it on them anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1231.

    THere arfe plenty of well trained people in IT etc in the south west of ENGLAND .

    BUT YET AGAIN the money goes up NORTH or LONDON Or the south east

    Its about time the Wessex counties and Cornwall , said stuff the rest and refuse to pay any futher taxes to subsidise the north and south east YET AGAIN , where as we get no investment for trains or companies to come to the south west .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1230.

    Can't those born into your preferred system not say the same of it?
    Yes, because I'm not imposing any system on them. I may join like minded others, and anyone is free to join or leave. It's voluntary.

    If collectivism is so "good" why must it be compulsory?

    If HS2 is so good, why does it need £0.01 of my wages to fund it, get the investment the same way the rest of us must.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1229.

    another train set in the north then , nice for them but what about the south west ? our roads are choked with grockles , caravaners , and hippies right at the moment .we need some infrastructure of any sort really .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1228.

    Let the numbers do the talking:

    London - £2,731
    South-east of England - £792
    East Midlands - £311
    West Midlands - £269
    Yorkshire and Humberside - £201
    North-west of England - £134
    Eastern England - £43
    South-west of England - £19
    North-east of England - £5

  • rate this

    Comment number 1227.

    Try getting to Manchester from Clitheroe, so that you can catch the HS3 to Leeds. It takes over an hour and sometimes does not come at all. Clitheroe to Manchester centre, 45 mins by car. Clitheroe to Leeds centre 55 mins by car.


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