Northern cities unveil £15bn transport plan

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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

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.