New body to drive rail and roads strategy

A NEW “northern powerhouse” will develop a 30-year transport strategy to ensure the whole of Yorkshire reaps the benefits of high-speed rail under plans unveiled by the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

David Cameron
David Cameron

Transport for the North will bring together leaders across the north of England to spearhead the new ‘HS3’ line to cut journey times between its biggest cities and drive improvements in connectivity within regions in a unified body to rival London’s, David Cameron and George Osborne have promised.

Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron also pledged to devolve more powers to local authorities to tackle issues with capacity, reliability and on a local level as they launched the multi-billion pound east-west link in Leeds yesterday.

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It comes after The Yorkshire Post’s Big Debate highlighted council leaders concerns’ that the Government risked wasting billions on HS2 unless significant improvements were made to services to and from the proposed stations in South Yorkshire and Leeds. The view was endorsed by HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins in his report on maximising the benefits of high-speed rail in the north.

Mr Cameron said: “This is not a stand-alone project. HS2 and HS3 are part of planned wider investment.

“There are plans in the next Parliament to invest three times more in projects, some of which are already happening in Yorkshire.”

Work to establish Transport for the North, which will follow a model similar to Transport for London, is already underway and it is due to publish an interim report including the options, costs and a delivery timetable for a HS3 east-west rail connection in March.

Outlining his vision for the body, the Chancellor said it would build on August’s One North report from council leaders from northern cities.

Mr Osborne said: “If you look at Transport for London, it has one single plan until 2050 and because of that is has been able to get support for big projects. In the north we have at least 20 different ones, and I believe we can bring those plans together to create one strategy.

“One North put forward those ideas for local transport connections - it is not just about connecting big cities but about helping people get into those cities and that’s why we will devolve more powers (to them).”

The move was announced in response to Sir David’s recommendations on the second phase of the HS2 project, unveiled at Leeds Civic Hall, which stressed the need for city regions to be given the tools to improve transport on a local level in preparation for high-speed rail.

“Ideally there needs to be a plan for the north to address the pressing problems which will emerge,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“The direction should be from the north. How exciting to have that idea signed off by these two political leaders.”

While a number of questions remain over timetables, budgets and possible locations of Leeds and Sheffield high-speed rail stations, the latest move has been largely welcomed by business and council leaders across the region.

Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds Council, said: “We’ve always said that we don’t want people travelling on high-speed rail to Leeds then getting off and having a 19th-century service.

“We have pressed for the need for better connectivity between city regions. For example Bradford is the 10th-biggest city in the UK yet has extremely poor connections.

“The Higgins report recognises that and tries to address it. We’re looking forward to the next step and making sure everyone in the region enjoys better transport.”