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Osborne calls on government to build ‘Northern Powerhouse’ rail link

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Former chancellor George Osborne has urged the government to commit to a new cross-Pennine railway linking Liverpool to Hull 

In an article in The Financial Times, Osborne admitted that this railway network, which he dubbed ’Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3’, would ‘not be cheap’, but added that it would ’transform the northern economy’.

He said the estimated cost of a new line in the Pennines could be as high at £7 billion, but said the investment could be spread over many years. 

‘Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3, must be included in the next stage of the Government’s high-speed network,’ Osborne wrote. ’Specifically, ministers should include the planning for the future connections when they set out the design for Phase 2b of High Speed 2 [HS2] later this year, remodelling four junctions to ensure they are complementary with the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals, start the detailed planning work on the line itself and allocate a long-term capital budget.’

Obsorne, who is chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, added that this this new railway network would ‘bring seven million extra people – and three times the number of businesses – within a 90-minute journey time of one of the northern cities’.

The editor of the Evening Standard has previously urged prime minister Theresa May to commit to the high-speed railway in the north at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this October. 

‘The Northern Powerhouse Rail fits with Mrs May’s stated objective of building an economy that works for everyone,’ he wrote at the time. 

‘Far be it from me to offer advice to the prime minister on how to relaunch her premiership this autumn, but making this big commitment to the north at the Conservative conference in Manchester would not be a bad place to start.’

The HS3 would link on to the existing High Speed 2 project, which will connect London, Birmingham, the east Midlands, Leeds and Manchester. 

Responding to Osborne’s comments, a Department for Transport spokersperson said: ’The government has already made a commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail which could help transform the north of England. We have given Transport for the North £60m to develop plans and look forward to working with them once proposals are submitted later this year.

’We are also investing billions of pounds across the north of England to better connect communities, build the Northern Powerhouse and deliver improved journeys right across the region. This includes major upgrades to the cross-Pennine route that connects Manchester and Leeds to deliver better services and faster journeys from 2022.’

In July, the government confirmed the routes for Phase 2 of HS2 between Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands. 

Also in July, the architects behind the bids for Euston Station, Old Oak Common Station in west London, Birmingham Curzon Street Station and Birmingham Interchange were officially released. These included Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Foster + Partners and Grimshaw.  

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Readers' comments (3)

  • A fast public transport link between the Northern conurbations is a no-brainer, given the constraints of the current trans-Pennine routes - but Westminster governments are inclined to concentrate infrastructure investment on London's needs (with reluctance, at that) so it'll be something of a miracle if it happens.

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  • A true high speed railway between Liverpool and Hull with speeds in excess of 180mph is not the right solution. A fast railway with speeds of 125mph would be more appropriate for the distances involved between the northern cities. It would also cost less than half of any true high speed railway due to less onerous technical specifications and needs for segregation. It such be called "Northern Express" rather than HS3 and should pass through existing main stations in all cities to maximize connectivity and benefits.

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  • Mr Pevsner

    I agree with Sean. This is not a large country. It's not about speed of transport, nor should it be political.

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