Former chancellor George Osborne has called for a redesign of phase two of HS2 to cater for a swathe of new high-speed lines across northern England from Liverpool to Hull.
Writing in the Financial Times, Mr Osborne called for the remodelling of four junctions on the second phase of the £55.7bn route to cater for Northern Powerhouse proposals.
Mr Osborne’s intervention comes as part of a campaign by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership to put pressure on the government to invest in infrastructure schemes in the North of England.
The former chancellor said that, with a combined population of 10m people, the northern cities could act as a counter-balance to London, and that the PM should consider relaunching the Northern Powerhouse at the Conservatives’ annual conference, which is being held in Manchester in early October.
Mr Osborne said: “This week, the partnership launches its first campaign: it wants the government to commit to building high-speed rail links across the North – from Liverpool to Hull, starting with the line across the Pennines.
“Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3, must be included in the next stage of the government’s high-speed network.
“This new railway would transform the northern economy. It would bring 7m extra people — and three times the number of businesses — within a 90-minute journey time of one of the northern cities.
“Specifically, ministers should include the planning for the future connections when they set out the design for phase 2b of HS2 later this year, remodelling four junctions to ensure they are complementary with the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals, start the detailed planning work on the line itself and allocate a long-term capital budget.”
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership also penned a letter to the government (see full text below) calling for it to back Northern Powerhouse Rail.
It was signed by contractors and consultants including Mace, Arcadis, and Arup.
Last month a number of politicians including Greater Manchester’s newly elected metro mayor Andy Burnham criticised the government for cancelling a number of electrification projects while giving tacit backing for the £31bn Crossrail 2 line through London.
Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s letter to the government: full text
Connecting our great cities of the North with a world-class, higher capacity rail network is not only fundamental to the success of the Northern Powerhouse, it is fundamental to the success of the entire country.
We’re calling on the government to back this success, and back Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).
In the Industrial Strategy Green Paper earlier this year the government officially acknowledged the historic underinvestment in northern infrastructure and promised to tackle it.
Implementing Northern Powerhouse Rail would be transformational for businesses in the North, driving productivity and attracting 850,000 new jobs to the region by 2050. It would create a transformational legacy of investment for the North of England the likes of which has not been seen before.
We are calling on the government to show its continued commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail in the Autumn Budget, alongside a step change investment in the wider road and rail corridors which link the key economic assets of the North.
This crucial, pan-Northern infrastructure of Northern Powerhouse Rail, our Crossrail for the North, would significantly cut journey times, for example providing a no more than 30-minute commute between Leeds and Manchester and less than 60 minutes between Leeds and Newcastle, and have a dramatic impact on the UK economy.
The government itself has acknowledged and shown the potential improvement in national productivity from this, as well as other policy initiatives. This transformational investment in connectivity, from Liverpool across to Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle, is the long-term solution the North needs.
The current poor connectivity in the North is a major obstacle to encouraging companies from growing in the region and is a barrier to inward investment. According to Transport for the North (TfN), less than 10,000 people in the North can access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour. This would rise to 1.3 million once is delivered. It would also create fast, frequent connections between the North’s core cities and Manchester Airport.
We urge the government to re-state its commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail as a matter of priority. Without it the vision for a genuine Northern Powerhouse to rebalance our country’s economy and make UK plc prosper for decades to come cannot be delivered.
We are passionate believers that this is not just a Northern issue, it is a UK issue. It should not be seen as Crossrail 2 in London versus Northern Powerhouse Rail; both schemes are vital for Britain’s future.