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Northern cities moot £15bn transport plan

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Five northern cities have joined forces to propose an alternative infrastructure plan for the north

The report One North: A proposition for an interconnected North has been put forward by Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.

It proposes a dedicated 125mph trans-Pennine rail link running from Manchester to Newcastle, while also calling for phase one of HS2 to be extended to Crewe and the delivery of the line between Leeds and Sheffield brought forward.

If adopted, the £15billion plan would deliver benefits of up to 150 per cent additional capacity on roads and as much as 55 per cent faster journey times on a faster, more frequent interconnected rail network.

Adding to the debate the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has said that the high-speed link ‘must be given as high a ranking as HS2 if ministers are serious about narrowing the north-south divide’.

Plans for the northern high-speed link were first proposed by the TCPA’s late president, Peter Hall, who died last week. In his analysis, Hall warned that long-overdue rail investment in the north was vital in a country with ‘the biggest regional disparities in Europe’.

He added that the balance between the north and south of England could only be addressed by bringing together the economies of northern cities ‘through better and much faster transport links, creating a mega-city rivalling London in scale.’

Responding to the One North report, chancellor George Osborne said it was a ‘pathway to a northern powerhouse’.

He said the government would look at ‘delivering its component parts – extra motorway capacity, better rolling stock, more efficient freight routes from ports, local metro and tram improvements, and faster and better rail connections across the north’.

Osborne added: ‘There is a prize that awaits the north of England.

‘If we work together, bring our cities together, invest in future transport and skills and science, we can build a ‘northern powerhouse’.

‘The prize is worth fighting for: adding over £56 billion to the economy of the north – in real terms – over £1,600 for each person living here.’

Back in March, HS2 chairman David Higgins announced the northern section of the high-speed rail line would need to be sped up to allow both phases of the £42.6 billion project to be completed early.

Comments from the five northern cities

Richard Leese, Manchester City Council leader

‘Sir David Higgins set us a challenge to make the case and we are responding in a single clear voice with this landmark report.

‘The current constraints on our transport networks, the product of years of neglect and under-investment, affect the competitiveness of the north. East to west journeys take almost twice as long as equivalent journeys in the south and our rail links are too slow and unco-ordinated. Our motorways are congested and there is an over-reliance on the M62.

‘Addressing these limitations will require ambitious action, co-operation and a co-ordinated approach to strategic planning and investment – bringing together rail, road, water and freight and enabling the great cities of the north to be more than the sum of their parts. We need a new holistic approach to strategic investment and planning. The reward would be a substantially increased contribution to the national economy.’

Keith Wakefield, Leeds City Council leader

‘The north has long been calling for better connectivity between cities outside London. Getting the right investment in our transport systems would deliver unprecedented change to better connect people and jobs, which is crucial if we also want to rebalance the national economy.

‘This report demonstrates once again that only through tackling our outdated transport system will the north be able to fulfil its true economic potential; benefiting our own local communities and the country as a whole.

‘HS2, supported by strong regional transport networks, has the potential to bring transformational regeneration and investment to many of our cities and city regions.’ ‘Building from the north would increase the pace of that change, while at the same time delivering much-needed jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities.’

Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool

‘In the 19th century almost half of the world’s trade moved through the port of Liverpool, but getting freight to and from the Liverpool City Region is just as important today – the planned SuperPORT is going to increase volume by 70 per cent in 2030. So we need better, faster connectivity – both east towest and through HS2. Improved trans-pennine connections will lead to a huge, exciting boost in commercial confidence and growth across the north as millions of people find it easier to do business with each other.’

Pat Ritchie, Newcastle City Council chief executive

‘One North is a demonstration that the great northern cities can work together to shape transport plans which would transform the economic competitiveness of the north – linking people to jobs, goods to customers and our businesses to international markets. Ensuring that Newcastle and the North East are part of an integrated approach to transport is essential to delivering our vision for economic growth in the region.’

Julie Dore, Sheffield City Council leader

‘Transforming the connections between our great northern cities is vital if we are to make the most of our unlocked economic potential. An ambitious, integrated and planned approach towards infrastructure investment in the north will enable us to achieve our ambitions for our economy. For years our transport network has been far too slow and inferior compared to London and the South East. This report outlines the steps we need to put this right, but we need the tools to make this happen. Getting city-to-city connections right will act as a catalyst for our cities and city regions which we need to drive job creation and rebalance growth in the UK.’


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