North England cities set for 15bn transport improvements
Five cities in the north of England are today presenting plans to transform rail and road networks in the region at a projected cost of £15 billion over a 15-year plan.
The report, One North: A proposition for an interconnected North, has been collectively produced by the cities of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield and will be presented to the chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne and High Speed 2 (HS2) chairman Sir David Higgins.
Today’s report comes as a response to the Northern Powerhouse speech delivered by Osborne in June this year, during which he acknowledged an economic imbalance between the North and London, and the South East, much of which was rooted in outdated and inefficient inter-city transport networks.
Osborne said: “The cities of the North are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.”
The chancellor also emphasised: “Step one in building the Northern Powerhouse is a radical transport plan so that travelling between cities feels like travelling within one big city.”
One of the main proposals outlined in One North report is a new 125mph trans-Pennine rail route connected to HS2 and existing railways. The route plans to link together the five major cities and improve connections between Manchester Airport as well as ports on the east and west coasts.
Other proposed changes include highway redevelopment along north-south and east-west routes, improved movement of freight by road, train and water connecting key ports and estuaries. It would also look into electrification of railways and developing a new rolling stock to accommodate an increase in commuter capacity of 120 – 150% for Leeds and Manchester and between 100 – 130% for Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle. The proposals are estimated for completion by 2030.
The authors of the report cite the Rhein-Ruhr region in Germany and Randstad in the Netherlands as two examples of multi-centred regions that have engendered more stable and productive economies in their respective countries as a result of high-speed rail networks connecting the region and facilitating inter-city business.
Those responsible claim that simple route improvements “will not be capable of delivering the transformational change this proposition calls for.” They hope that the government as well as other key bodies such as Network Rail and the Highways Agency will support their plans for more radical amendments designed to nurture similar levels of big business and investment in the north as is experienced in London.