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Revival of Alsop's Supercity? Osborne unveils HS3 vision

Chancellor George Osborne has revealed plans for a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds as part of a wider proposals to create ‘a northern powerhouse’ to counterbalance the economy.

The vision is similar to plans drawn up in 2004 by architect Will Alsop drawn for a northern super-city along the M62 corridor.

The east-west line, dubbed HS3, has been estimated to cost around £7billion and could be included as part of a review into the second phase of the £50billion HS2 project.

The Chancellor said: ‘We need to think big. 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.’

The chancellor is set to announce the plans to include a link between the two northern cities with a new rail line, dubbed HS3, later today (23 June). The line has been estimated to cost around £7billion, but could be built for less if it used existing lines.

Speaking in Manchester this week, the chancellor admitted that while the cities of the north are individually strong, collectively they are not strong enough, and are economically dominated by London.

The chancellor said: ‘We need to think big. 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.

‘As well as fixing the roads, that means considering a new high-speed rail link. Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds – based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure. A third high speed railway for Britain.’

The plans do not currently include Newcastle, Hull and Liverpool, but the chancellor imagines a ‘northern hub if 7.8million stretching from Manchester in the west through to South Yorkshire.

Speaking about Osborne’s plans Alsop said: ‘Slowly the super-city [along the] M62 will arrive. Liverpool to Hull. But what will it be like?’

Alsop’s original plans for a super-city were announced in 2005 and were designed to encompass the northern cities of Hull, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester with a high-speed rail and commuter routes.

The architect’s plan also included transforming Barnsley into a Tuscan hill village, complete with its own walls, while Liverpool would extend up to a mile into the sea with houses built on stilts.

Other Comments:

Richard Threlfall, Partner and UK Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction at KPMG

‘Over the last 10 years, according to ONS data, the North’s share of the UK’s economic output has fallen by more than 5%. This trend will continue unless we strive to share our country’s economic success beyond the South East. HS3 recognises the dismal state of links between the UK’s Northern cities today. It takes about the same time to reach Liverpool from Leeds as it does to get to London from Leeds, even though it is less than half the distance.

‘We have for too long invested billions of pounds more in the South than the North - throwing money at our strongest region and abandoning our weakest. The UK currently invests as much in infrastructure in London in 2 days as it invests in Manchester in a year. HS3 should finally turn the tide and help the North regain its historic prominence in the UK economy.

“HS3 is the missing link to create a true high speed rail network in the UK. It should run between our major port cities of Liverpool and Hull, and connect up Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and York, then up to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.’





Readers' comments (2)

  • Some supercities creep up on us unannounced; for example, it takes no more time to travel between central Glasgow and central Edinburgh than it can take to go from Holborn to Canary Wharf.
    How much of the South East's economic success is down to a financial services sector so loosely regulated that it's costing the country (not just the South East) astronomic sums to rescue it, with every sign that mainland Europe could well start to make inroads on this business?
    George Osborne's pronouncements have to be seen in the light of rising disaffection in Northern England with the policies of the Department for Transport in denying the provision of adequate numbers of trains (rather like the situation in the Bristol / Bath area a year or two ago).
    Despite this shortfall, the DfT is overseeing the transfer of some of the best quality trains from Northern England to services out of Marylebone, and it's probably no coincidence that it's the Treasury minister, not the Transport minister, who's promising jam tomorrow.
    Many in the North of England compare their situation unfavourably with that in a devolved (let alone independent) Scotland, where improving train services isn't dependent on the vagaries of the DfT and the (frequently dead hand) of the Treasury.

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  • Alex Seymour

    I don't like the bit about "could be built for less if it used existing lines". Reminds me of the suggestion by one politician a few years back that some money could be saved by using the northern spur of the Circle Line to carry Crossrail under central London. If we are to have HS3 then let it be state of the art and not some hotchpotch of lines shared with the Trans Pennine Express and East Coast Main Line.

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