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 1286.

    As someone who was brought up in industrial Lancashire but has lived in the South since I came to London as a student in 1964 all HS2 will do is bring Birmingham nearer to London not the other way round. What is need is a decent speed line (or series of lines) connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds Sheffield and Hull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1285.

    More taxpayer's money into companies' and shareolders' pockets.

    Why is everything user-pays, now?

    Yet, we still pay massive taxes aswell.

    When services were public, we only had to pay once.

    Its just, plain, wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1284.

    Northerners who complain about London getting all the investment have the cart before the horse. London gets investment so that it can meet the demand. It's where people/businesses want to be so road/rail/etc are built to meet this demand.

    Create the demand up north and investment will follow. This HS3 connectivity will help create that demand but northern cities need to help themselves too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1283.

    Who says that commerce will go North because HS2 & HS3 will get you there quicker, it's well within the bounds of probability that the remaining commerce up North might well decide to decamp and come South for the same reasons. Could well become another "unintended consequence" of this Government and a mighty expensive one at that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1282.

    Way overdue. And while we're all talking pipe dreams, how about a motorway up the Eastern side of England? The Humber bridge would do fine for starters heading down towards the M11. Unfortunately all the while London gets everything, nothing will happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1281.

    The answer to this countrys needs is NOT More immigration .
    The answer is

    1) training , apprenticeships - The problem is companies cant be bothered with apprenticeships anymore as the world has got 'smaller'

    2) banning companies from using foreign except in exceptional circumstances

    3) massed immigration has impact wages unless your a director or a banker or in government

  • rate this

    Comment number 1280.

    I do not understand why we are still building/planning to build conventional railways/Why not invest in maglevs?/Is it lack of foresight from our esteemed leaders/
    Half the Tory Party wish we could return to age of the horse; the other half think we have never left it. Labour & LibDims hate the car & its driver for a variety of reasons but are very happy to take the taxes from them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1279.

    HS2 - HS3? Laughable. The Germans and the Japanese have "Maglvev" - monorail magnetic trains capable of 300-400mph - that's what we need in the UK - London to Scotland in 1 hour...PROGRESS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1278.

    The priority is getting the infrastructure we presently have working properly, not giving up on what we have and building some pie in the sky project like HS3.

    It shows how out of touch the Chancellor is that he could even suggest such a stupid waste of our limited resources and how the government completely lacks any common sense that it should get this far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1277.

    George Osborne talks the talk, trying to make us believe he wants to help the North, but let's not forget his tears at Maggie Thatcher's funeral: Maggie whose government famously wanted to let northern cities like Liverpool slide into "managed decline", writing off the inhabitants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1276.

    The North of England was at the very centre of the Industrial Revolution
    Osbourne's proposals, (even though the lefties retreat to dogma and scaremongering) are a good step in regaining its place in the post industrial world the UK is now in.
    Well done and another positive step to create wealth in our country, especially in the Northern region.
    Que, misinformation and spin from the lazy left

  • rate this

    Comment number 1275.

    Lets just have one single high speed route from the North to London to cater for most intercity travel. A single route, no junctions and all the trains travelling the same route, leaving every three minutes. Any city not on the line can connect to their nearest station by conventional trains. The route: Glasgow-Edinburgh-Newcastle-Leeds-Manchester-Birmingham-London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1274.

    Some argue we need affordable rail system 'comparable to Europe'. May I add that most European countries, France, Germany, Spain already have high speed rail projects and not only that spending billions more on building more lines. Has it occurred that we need to invest into big infrastructure projects like high speed rail in order to have a reliable European system that people are advocating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1273.

    Living in a semi-rural area between Manchester and Leeds, I can assure you we don't want to stand on the platform waiting for our hourly over-crowded train watching one whizz past at 120mph... We need 3-4 trains per hour to get people into the cities. What's the point in fast trains for the MDs if the workers can't get there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1272.

    That's not North: it's just north of London! So what about Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham, Tyne & Wear etc? The true North of England. Not to mention Scotland. The tories are doing their damnedest for the yes vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1271.

    So in your world a group could set up any system of their own choosing?
    Hey, if you and a bunch of likeminded folks want to band together and live in a collectivist community, pooling your resources, centrally planning everything from Town Hall, go for it. But, don't force me to participate. I'll do likewise.

    If you want an HS2, you pay for it. Don't take my wages by force!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1270.

    People just do not get it is a way of putting contracts and money into their corporate pals banks all be it some will be foreign all paid with borrowing and tax payers money.
    What we need is the existing service 30% cheaper and more efficient rail service just like the ones in Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1269.

    Another bout of ghastly thinking.
    No doubt HS3 will not connect to either arms of HS2 in a similar fashion that HS2 is likely not to connect with HS1. Why can't HS1 be extended up into the north of country instead, so we can get direct travel to/from Europe without having to set foot in London?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1268.

    Why not sort out existing public transport first? Bristol is the UK's most congested city outside London and has the worst public transport.

    The South West always loses out re transport spending.

    As far as politicians and the media are concerned, the UK consists of London, Scotland and the North of England.

    We need regional government, not to pay taxes and then be ignored by Whitehall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1267.


    Agree re Gideon but its the mindset of the elitist in the tory party - I don't think it refers to the majprity of Labour and the small parties.
    As I said earlier re Gideons strongest supporter Gove - I hope that Gove reprimands Gideon for his ignorance of UK geography


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