TRANSPORT leaders will today set out the options for a £77bn rail upgrade programme to unite cities across Yorkshire and the North.
The Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor will join with Northern council leaders to launch a TransNorth rail system and create the first ever Northern-wide investment plan.
Chancellor George Osborne
Transport for the North, made up of senior council leaders, will work with Government in setting the road and rail priorities for the region.
Plans set out in the new strategy include slashing journey times between major northern cities with investment in high speed rail; developing new east-west road connections, including a road tunnel under the Peak District and introducing Oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the North.
The TransNorth network – with sections capable of speeds up to 140mph – would link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull.
The plan aims to reduce journey times between Manchester and Sheffield or Leeds to 30 minutes with a new line linked to the plans for a new road tunnel. Other benefits would see Leeds to Hull journey times reduced to just 45 minutes, and Sheffield to Hull in 50 minutes.
City leaders will now have to hammer out which option of rail upgrades from a list worth more than £77bn will make it into the final plan, with a new Leeds to Manchester route alone costing up to £10bn to save 19 minutes off a 49-minute journey
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: “This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the North and we will work closely with Transport for the North to help make it a reality.”
The plans puts pressure on the chancellor to set out more details of route and timetable for his biggest pledge yet, a High Speed 3 project across the Pennines.
The Northern rail strategy will “build on the concept of High Speed 3”, the Government said, and sees the new authority asking the current HS2 team to look at cross-Pennine routes.
Last night Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “It is time to address the enormous disparity in transport funding compared to the South.
“Greater connectivity through transport is the key to unlocking the immense economic potential of Leeds and the North, and in turn helping to rebalance and boost the national economy.
“What the people of Leeds and Yorkshire need to see now is not more strategies and options but for these announcements to be followed up with real money.”
Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher MP said the plan showed the Government was desperate for votes in the run-up to the election.
He said: “After five years of failing the North of England, the Tories and Lib Dems are making a desperate, last ditch attempt to win votes in the North ahead of the General Election.
“People in the North won’t be fooled by a so called ‘strategy’ that falls well short of what is needed.”