The UK must have a high-speed rail network linking North to South by the early 2030s, unlocking a £100bn boost to the North’s economy, Northern MPs, civic leaders and businesses said last week.
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) is calling on Government to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) at the same time as HS2 as a major step to narrowing the North-South divide. NPR will focus on connecting the North’s ‘key economic centres,’ namely Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle, by increasing the speed and frequency of rail services. International connectivity would also be transformed, with 10 million people within two hours of Manchester Airport – the Northern Powerhouse’s international hub -compared to three million today.
Dramatically cutting journey times to cities and towns in the Northern Powerhouse would create thousands of jobs, increasing productivity and attracting significant overseas investment. Coupled with HS2, establishing an NPR station in Liverpool alone would create 20,000 new jobs and contribute £703m towards the economy. Redesigning Manchester Piccadilly to create an underground station, in order to allow high-speed trains to pass through without delay, is also critical to achieving significantly quicker journeys across the North.
Currently, travelling from Manchester to Bradford by train takes 61 minutes – bringing in NPR would slash this to just 20 minutes. Crucial to this impactful improvement is building a tunnel to accommodate NPR in an underground station at Manchester Piccadilly, ensuring that HS2 trains can seamlessly link with NPR trains and link with a second Greater Manchester station at Manchester Airport.
In Bradford, the UK’s youngest city, much-needed investment in education and skills could create a highly-skilled workforce with greatly-enhanced connections across the North and wider UK. By the time today’s pre-schoolers in Bradford are entering the world of work, they could travel to Manchester in 25 minutes, Hull in 53 (down from 91 currently), London in 92 (down from 171), Newcastle in 68 (down from 123) and Sheffield in 38 (from 85).
At a conference in Leeds last week, Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, launched a campaign for NPR services to link to Sunderland. Crucial to the overall economic benefit to the North is not simply connecting the core cities, but ensuring major towns such as Sunderland, Preston, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and towns like Barnsley and its neighbours in South Yorkshire are included in high-speed connections.
Northern Powerhouse Partnership Vice-Chair Lord Jim O’Neill said: “Getting Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered to the recommendations of Transport for the North is crucial for the success of the Northern Powerhouse.
“Without connecting as quickly and efficiently as possible the many closely-located towns and cities of the Northern Powerhouse, it will not be able to create the agglomeration benefits that would transform the economy of the UK, never mind just the North.
“Indeed by doing it, 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.”
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, added: “Westminster has failed the North and given us a transport system which is simply not fit for the future. People here are no longer prepared to put up with the packed out roads and clapped out trains that we’ve endured for decades.
“We need the Government to deliver East to West Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside HS2, with a revamped Manchester Piccadilly station at its heart. This is a clear call from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and our job now as political leaders is to gather the whole of the North behind this call, speaking with one voice to Government to demand the rail system the North deserves.
“We’ve had a lot of talk from Ministers but now is the time for them to show their commitment to the North of England and gave us the infrastructure we need to create jobs, boost productivity and tackle the North South divide.”