Thursday, 23 October 2014
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Northern cities unveil £15bn transport plan

Proposals for a new £15bn transport network to turn the north of England into an ‘economic powerhouse’ have been unveiled today.

The One North report put forward by the councils of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield includes a new intercity rail network incorporating a 125mph trans-Pennine line and links to ports and airports.

It also proposes better regional rail networks to connect the new intercity line and a brought-forward High-Speed 2 with local metro/tram and bus services, as well as greater road capacity for individuals and freight.

‘The current constraints on our transport networks, the product of years of neglect and under-investment, affect the competitiveness of the north,’ said Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese in a statement.

‘East-West journeys take almost twice as long as equivalent journeys in the south and our rail links are too slow and uncoordinated. Our motorways are congested, and there is an over-reliance on the M62.’

transport plan

Source: One North

The report comes in response to the challenge set out by the chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins, for the cities of the North to ensure regional and local transport maximises the potential for economic growth that the new north-south high-speed line will create.

It also follows comments by the chancellor George Osborne who called for a new trans-Pennine rail link as part of an attempt to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ earlier this year.

Speaking this morning in Manchester, Osborne said he agreed with the general plan put forward by the ‘excellent’ report: ‘I’m ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science. And real new civic power too.’

The proposals set out a long wishlist that would cost £15bn over 15 years and includes:

  • Increased road capacity for both freight and personal travel through extended managed motorways, addressing gaps in the network and improving links to ports.
  • A very fast, frequent and high quality intercity rail network joining up city regions – including a new trans-Pennine route (tunnelled as necessary), a faster link to Newcastle and improved access to Manchester Airport.
  • Improved regional rail networks to provide additional capacity and help sustain growth, interconnected with HS2 and intercity services plus local tram networks and more park and ride facilities.
  • New rolling stock (as a priority), electrification of existing lines, higher service frequencies and addressing pinch-points on the rail network.
  • A digital infrastructure enabling real-time information, greater network resilience and faster connections between key areas to personal and business users.
  • Improved access to enable efficient freight movements by rail, road and water including ports, rail links and distribution centres. 
  • Building HS2 early – extending Phase One to Crewe and bringing forwards the delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield.
  • Improving East/West rail freight capability across the Pennines, linking major ports to north/south rail routes.

Read our recent blog on why the UK’s regions need to start putting forward bolder ideas.


Readers' comments (7)

  • The headline 'Northern cities unveil £15bn transport plan' suggests that the provinces are finally showing some initiative. Unfortunately, on further reading, the plan was prompted by chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins, and George Osborne's 'vision' of a 'northern powerhouse'. Furthermore it reiterates Osborne's proposal for improved trans-pennine links, building HS2 early and other government sponsored proposals along traditional 'more roads', better railways' blah blah blah..

    Where's the integrated vision of how the northern cities can jointly develop? What are it's strengths and weaknesses? What is necessary to make it's strengths truly world class and it's weaknesses not limiting? What does it need from BIS, TSB, EPSRC etc.? What are the strategic centres of excellence that should be the focus of the 'powerhouse' and where should they be located?
    Only then can the real infrastructure requirements be determined and a real case made.
    I note the latest poll in The Engineer is about commemorating engineers. Who is going to stand up in the provinces and create the vision, and deliver it, to be worthy of commemorating in the future?

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  • Governments (local and national) can’t make businesses successful. What they can do is to create the conditions under which businesses can flourish, and a key part of that is infrastructure.
    It seems to me that this proposal is an attempt by politicians to do just that – create the conditions under which companies can flourish. The fact that the report has been produced by a collection of Northern councils (predominantly Labour controlled) in response to a challenge set by the chairman of HS2 and comments by the (Conservative) chancellor George Osborne is a definite step forwards. Politicians from all parties agreeing that something positive can be done to revitalise the North and redress the North-South divide can only be a good thing, and long may it continue.

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  • Agree with Edward this seems a very positive step. Central and Local Goverment and Industry all working towards the same aim can only be a good thing. The key to getting big infrastructure projects right was according to the guy who ran HS1 that everyone actually sat down and worked together, it was the shared responsibilty bit they finally got right after years many years when we did not. I hope it is a lesson we remember this time and don't have to rediscover again. Work together for the good of the UK as a whole and we can acheive anything.

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  • A good start I guess, the cross Pennine public transport is awful and slow.
    I think this should be taken up instead of hs2, why is another link to Birmingham so important when the rest of the UK has such poor links?
    I'd like to see a route go out of north London, straight to the east Midland's hub, then with a branch to Manchester and then Leeds via Sheffield, this would then be tied together with a new Pennine tunnel linking Liverpool, Manchester, leeds, york etc.....
    I think this would deliver a greater boost to the north, essentially turning those cities into one big metro area, with fast non stop connection

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  • Isn't this the best opportunity in a long time given the funding available and the motivation to try out new forms of transport? Let our imaginations run wild over the Pennines?

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  • I'm all in favour of improving transport links, but I do wish people would stop referring to Manchester/Sheffield/Leeds etc as 'Northern'.

    Chopping 10 minutes off the journey time from (say) Leeds to Manchester is neither here nor there, much as the heralded 20 minutes from London to Birmingham with HS2.

    I had to go to London on short notice for business. The fare was £200 and delayed. The current cost and level of service needs to be addressed first.

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  • Current Manchester to Leed journey times are around an hour and costs £27 for a peak-time return. The new plan proposes to halve this time.

    Part of the reason ticket prices to London are so expensive is the overcrowding on the lines (the train companies want you to use emptier off-peak trains). And with intercity and local services using the same lines, that probably contributes towards delays as well. This overcrowding on lines into London is one of the main reasons given for building HS2.

  • Where does the great British Northern City of Glasgow feature in this?

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  • Given the upcoming referendum and the fact that many aspects of transport are devolved (plus the extra geographical distance), is it that surprising that these cities haven't included Glasgow in their plans? There's no involvement of Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff or Bristol either.

    However, Glasgow has teamed up with the eight English "core cities" outside London to negotiate a new "City Deal" with the Westminster Government. For Glasgow this includes the revival of plans for a rail link to the airport and improvements to the road and bus networks - dependant on the outcome of the referendum, of course.

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