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New tunnel through Pennines mooted as Northern transport strategy revealed

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Plans to ‘revolutionise’ travel in the North of England have been unveiled by the government today, including a multi-billion-pound TransNorth rail network

As well as a the major shake-up of the railways - which is part of the government’s ‘northern powerhouse’ initiative - LibDem leader Nick Clegg said that a new rail and road tunnel through the Pennines could feature.

Earlier today Chancellor George Osborne and transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the plans would also include simplifying rail fares and expanding the role of Transport for North.

Network Rail has set out different options for creating the government’s TransNorth rail network, including how much the new routes could cost.

Options range from radically upgrading existing routes to building completely new lines (see map below).

New routes include:

  • Leeds to Newcastle in 50 minutes (compared with 87 minutes currently): £8.5bn-£14bn - Option 1
  • Sheffield to Manchester in 27 minutes (compared with 48 minutes currently), and Manchester to Leeds in 30 minutes: £12bn-£19bn - Option 2
  • Manchester to Leeds in 30 minutes (compared with 49 minutes currently): £6.5bn-£10bn - Option 3

Upgrades and cut offs include:

  • Leeds to Newcastle in around 70 to 80 minutes: £1bn-£4bn - Option 6
  • Sheffield to Manchester in 39 minutes: £3bn-£5bn - Option 7
  • Manchester to Leeds in 34 minutes: £4.5bn-£7bn - Option 8

Northern transport strategy options map

Other measures in the Northern transport strategy include:

  • The government will take immediate action to simplify rail fares across the north, including Oyster-style travel cards.
  • TfN will expand its role to become a representative body for the whole of the North of England, led by an independent chair.
  • The government will make up to £6.4m available to support TfN’s strategic work and rail option development.
  • As part of the TransNorth network, work will begin on better connecting Manchester airport to neighbouring cities.

The chancellor said: “This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the North and we will work closely with TfN to help make it a reality.

“From backing high-speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the North, our ambitious plans for transport means we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity.”

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