Powerhouse call to build fast rail to Northern cities alongside HS2

High-speed rail linking the North of England's biggest cities should be delivered at the same time as HS2, politicians and business leaders have urged today.

Date: 13th March 2017. Picture James Hardisty. Northern Rail Strike affecting passengers at Leeds City Station.

MPs, civic leaders and company bosses claim delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) at the same time as HS2 would be a major step to narrowing the North-South divide, opening up much larger potential labour markets for businesses and enhanced leisure and social activities for families.

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One leader has also said it could help heal the political disillusionment held by many Northern voters.

Andy Burnham

Issued under the Northern Powerhouse Partnership banner, the collective message claims that young people born last year would be able to explore further education and job opportunities throughout the UK from the improvements.

The political and business leaders also say international connectivity would also be transformed, with 10m people brought within two hours of Manchester Airport compared to three million today.

Dramatically cutting journey times to cities and towns would also create thousands of jobs, increase productivity and serve in attracting significant overseas investment, the document claims.

Lord Jim O'Neill, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, gives a speech on the Northern Powerhouse at Sheffield University

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s vice-chairman Lord Jim O’Neill said: “The financial investment justification for central government would vastly exceed the usual cautious value-for-money criteria, and be one of the most exciting things for post-Brexit Britain, notably for an area that has many disillusioned voters.”

The Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting this afternoon will hear from Andy Burnham, the elected mayor of Greater Manchester, and Bradford Council’s leader, Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, about the transformational effects the proposed high-speed networks will have on their cities by connecting them to rest of the North.

It calculates that NPR would reduce journey times between Manchester and Bradford to just 20 minutes and would create 20,000 new jobs in Liverpool alone. Crucial to this improvement is the proposed tunnel to accommodate NPR in an 
underground station at Manchester Piccadilly, ensuring that HS2 trains can seamlessly link with NPR trains and link with Manchester Airport.

Mr Burnham said: “We need the Government to deliver East to West NPR alongside HS2, with a revamped Manchester Piccadilly station at its heart.”

Andy Burnham

The call is made after Transport for the North published an all-encompassing blueprint document for the North of England which laid out the benefit to the country as a whole were it to be handed infrastructure improvements.

As well as proposing the speeding-up of delivering NPR, it called for upgrading the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester and upgrading the existing lines from Hull.

Coun Hinchcliffe added: “Supporters of the Next Stop Bradford campaign have made the case for why a new line between Manchester and Leeds will have the greatest benefit if it includes a city-centre stop in Bradford. It is right that Bradford is now on the preferred route and that this route should be built sooner, rather than later.

Lord Jim O'Neill, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, gives a speech on the Northern Powerhouse at Sheffield University

“At least £1.3bn of additional economic benefits will come from a Bradford city-centre station and will be unlocked through the direct connections to Manchester in 20 minutes and Leeds in seven minutes.”