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Revolutionary plans for northern transport set out

Strategy launched to connect up the great cities of the north to build a northern powerhouse.

Plans to revolutionise travel in the north, including a new ‘TransNorth’ rail system and new road investments, were yesterday set out by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and northern city leaders.

As part of building a northern powerhouse, the Chancellor established Transport for the North (TfN) to bring together northern transport authorities, and tasked it with working with government to create the first ever comprehensive transport strategy for the region, covering roads, rail, freight, airports and smart ticketing. TfN and the government published the first ‘Northern transport strategy’ report yesterday (20 March 2015), following Network Rail work on rail improvement options.

The report sets out a long term strategy to connect up the north, create a single economy and allow northern towns and cities to pool their strengths. Plans set out in the report 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
  • introducing Oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the north

The Chancellor and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was in the north west yesterday to launch the report. The Transport Secretary met with northern leaders at the Port of Liverpool’s container terminal L2 and then joined the Chancellor on a visit to Stockport to discuss the ‘Northern transport strategy’ and announce the go-ahead of the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said:

Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a northern powerhouse. This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the north and we will work closely with TfN to help make it a reality.

From backing high speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the north, our ambitious plans for transport means we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

As part of my northern futures plan, I listened to what people wanted and have taken decisive action. I’ve already pledged to rid the region of rattling old pacer trains, introduced smarter ticketing in Sheffield and increased capacity on commuter services. All of this will ensure the north can race ahead in a stronger economy and doesn’t become one big bottleneck.

I’m extremely proud to be announcing this new strategy which will be transformative for the region. Modernising rail in the north and speeding up connections between cities will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the transport network they deserve.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said yesterday:

This dynamic change, led by the Chancellor with northern leaders, transforms the way government looks at transport solutions for the north. No government has given such attention to the infrastructure of our great northern cities and how to deliver a world-class, integrated transport network for the north. The proposals announced today will reduce journey times while increasing capacity and connectivity, enabling growth.

Creating a northern powerhouse of jobs, investment and prosperity, is a key objective of the government’s long term economic plan. We are planning for transport and growth in a new joined-up way. Today we set out a comprehensive strategy for the northern economy which will help the north pool its strengths. TfN gives the north a powerful new voice.

Sir Richard Leese, Chair of the TfN Partnership Board, and leader of Manchester City Council, said yesterday:

Today marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work to bring together a range of far-reaching transport plans which together will transform connectivity across the north of England, improving the passenger experience, boosting business and ultimately helping to rebalance the UK economy.

But our work is far from done, we must now ensure TfN delivers a north which has a vibrant and growing economy, acts as a magnet for inward investment, and which capitalises on the strengths of our great northern cities.

The cities of the north are individually strong, and increasingly have the tools to grow, but by working together they can be stronger than the sum of their parts. This new report sets out how that can be delivered through a long-term investment plan in rail, the important relationship between HS2 and regional rail services as well as roads, ports, and airports - covering both passengers and freight.

This strategy presents an opportunity to better connect the cities of the north, make the most of existing skills and businesses and attract new ones and the yardstick of success is quite simple - to empower the north to compete with the rest of the world and become an engine for growth in the UK.

Building on the concept of High Speed 3, the report sets out a long term strategy to connect the great cities of the north with a network of high quality rail connections. This ‘TransNorth’ network - with sections capable of speeds up to 140 miles per hour - would link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull. With such a network journey times between:

  • Liverpool and Manchester could be as low as 20 minutes
  • Manchester to Sheffield and Leeds could both be 30 minutes
  • Leeds to Hull could be just 45
  • Sheffield to Hull 50 minutes

Journey times from Manchester to Newcastle could be cut by 25%.

Supporting studies by Network Rail set out for the first time the different options for creating such a network and set out indicative costings. Options range from radically upgrading existing routes to building completely new lines. The government will now fund further development of the options identified, with road and rail plans now jointly commissioned by TfN and government.

Other measures set out yesterday include:

  • the government will deliver HS2 - Britain’s new north-south high speed railway - in the north sooner by preparing a dedicated hybrid Bill to lay during the next Parliament. This is with a view to bringing HS2 to Crewe sooner than planned, subject to further analysis and final decisions on preferred route. It will also look at the case for accelerating the construction of the route between Leeds and Sheffield, and allowing it to be used by for fast regional train services
  • the government will take immediate action to simplify rail fares across the north, by streamlining the system of regulated fares. Regulated fares include most commuter fares and some off-peak fares and season tickets. Work will also begin on developing contactless travel cards that can be used across northern cities as well as on providing simpler, more unified information for passengers, making it easier for them to plan and make their journeys
  • major improvements to the north’s road network will continue. The government is to:
    • expand the M62 to 4 lanes between Leeds and Manchester
    • upgrade the M6 to 4 lanes
    • improve the A1 to provide continuous motorway standard between London and Newcastle
    • widen the M1 to 4 lane running in Yorkshire and Humber
  • as part of ‘TransNorth’, work will begin on better connecting Manchester airport to neighbouring cities in order to boost international links and make the north more globally competitive. There will also be a review for regional airports affected by the recent devolution of air passenger duty
  • the government and TfN will work together to produce multi-modal freight and logistics strategy for the north, to help the private sector invest with confidence in ports and other freight centres
  • TfN will expand its role to become a representative body for the whole of the north of England and will be led by an independent chair. Government is making available up to £6.4 million to support TfN’s strategic work and rail option development and will in addition ensure Highways England is able to take forward its studies identified in the report. This will mean that in total up to £12.5 million will be available to take forward development work

Options for upgrades and new lines

Network Rail’s work for the ‘Northern transport strategy’ sets out a range of options for upgrades and new lines between the key northern cities.

Some of these options are outlined below and on the map of illustrative cost and journey time examples.

Illustrative options for delivering TransNorth.

New routes

  • Leeds to Newcastle times of around 50 minutes (compared to a best time of 87 minutes currently) for an emerging estimate of between £8.5 billion and £14.0 billion - Option 1
  • Sheffield to Manchester times of around 27 minutes (compared to a best time of 48 minutes currently), and Manchester to Leeds in around 30 minutes for an emerging estimate of between £12 billion and £19 billion - Option 2
  • Manchester to Leeds times of around 30 minutes (compared to a best time of 49 minutes currently) for an emerging estimate of between £6.5 billion and £10.0 billion - Option 3
  • Liverpool to Manchester times of around 20 minutes (compared to a best time of 32 minutes currently) for an emerging estimate of between £8.0 billion and £13.0 billion - Option 4
  • Leeds to Hull times of around 28 minutes (compared to a best time of 55 minutes currently) for an emerging estimate of between £5.5 billion and £9 billion - Option 5

Upgrades and cut-offs

  • Leeds to Newcastle journey times of around 70 to 80 minutes for an emerging estimate of between £1 billion and £4 billion - Option 6
  • Sheffield to Manchester times of around 39 minutes for an emerging cost estimate of between £3 billion and £5 billion - Option 7
  • Manchester to Leeds times of around 34 minutes for an emerging cost estimate of between £4.5 billion to £7 billion - Option 8
  • Liverpool to Manchester times of around 23 minutes for an emerging cost estimate of between £4 billion and £7 billion - Option 9
  • Sheffield to Hull times of around 60 minutes (compared to a best time of 86 minutes currently) through upgrading the existing route - Option 10 - or using HS2 into Leeds, combined with the proposed Leeds to Hull improvements

Emerging estimates are provided at Q1 2015 prices, and are the result of early work.

Each of the options has been estimated as a stand-alone proposal. When the programme progresses into option selection, greater opportunities will be available for synergies and economies which could potentially result in reductions to the emerging estimates. Further reductions may be achievable by delivering works in tandem with HS2 or Network Rail schemes.

Work on developing these options will be jointly commissioned, including asking HS2 Ltd to take forward the new line options to Liverpool and across the Pennines, as well as the use of the Sheffield to Leeds HS2 line for fast regional services.

Find out what else the government is doing to support and grow the UK economy.

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