£15bn northern transport plan unveiled

Highways Reporters

A coalition of five key cities in the North of England have drawn up a £15 billion transport plan that could see roads capacity increased by up to 150%.

The report, which is entitled ‘One North: A Proposition for an interconnected North’ has been produced by an alliance of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield.

If adopted, the £15 billion, 15-year investment plan, which complements the HS2 proposals, could deliver benefits for the whole of the North of England including up to 150% additional capacity on roads and as much as 55% faster journey times on a faster, more frequent interconnected rail network.

It would also deliver new trains running on a dedicated 125mph trans-Pennine rail-link, a faster route to Newcastle and better access to ports and airports – improving freight and logistics movements across the country and benefiting personal and business travellers.

One North has been supported by a significant number of other key cities and regions including Hull, Bradford, Wakefield and York – who have all helped shape the findings of the report.

Report proposals include:

• Increased road capacity for both freight and personal travel through extended managed motorways, addressing gaps in the network and improving links to ports

• A fast, frequent and high quality intercity rail network joining up city regions – including a new trans-Pennine route (tunnelled as necessary), a faster link to Newcastle and improved access to Manchester Airport

• Improved regional rail networks to provide additional capacity and help sustain growth, interconnected with HS2 and intercity services plus local tram networks and more park and ride facilities

• New rolling stock (as a priority), electrification of existing lines, higher service frequencies and addressing pinch-points on the rail network

• A digital infrastructure enabling real-time information, greater network resilience and faster connections between key areas to personal and business users

• Improved access to enable efficient freight movements by rail, road and water including ports, rail links and distribution centres

• Building HS2 early – extending Phase One to Crewe and bringing forwards the delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield

• Improving East/West rail freight capability across the Pennines, linking major ports to north/south rail routes.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "Sir David Higgins (HS2 chairman) set us a challenge to make the case and we are responding in a single clear voice with this landmark report.

"The current constraints on our transport networks, the product of years of neglect and under-investment, affect the competitiveness of the north. East-West journeys take almost twice as long as equivalent journeys in the south and our rail links are too slow and uncoordinated. Our motorways are congested, and there is an over-reliance on the M62.

"Addressing these limitations will require ambitious action, cooperation and a coordinated approach to strategic planning and investment – bringing together rail, road, water and freight and enabling the great cities of the north to be more than the sum of their parts. We need a new holistic approach to strategic investment and planning. The reward would be a substantially increased contribution to the national economy."

Leader of Leeds City Council councillor Keith Wakefield said: "The North has long been calling for better connectivity between cities outside London. Getting the right investment in our transport systems would deliver unprecedented change to better connect people and jobs, which is crucial if we also want to rebalance the national economy.

"This report demonstrates once again that only through tackling our out-dated transport system will the North be able to fulfil its true economic potential, benefiting our own local communities and the country as a whole.”

The Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "In the 19th century almost half of the world's trade moved through the Port of Liverpool, but getting freight to and from the Liverpool City Region is just as important today – the planned SuperPORT is going to increase volume by 70% in 2030. So we need better, faster connectivity – both East-West and through HS2. Improved trans-pennine connections will lead to a huge, exciting boost in commercial confidence and growth across the North as millions of people find it easier to do business with each other."

Newcastle City Council chief executive Pat Ritchie added: "One North is a demonstration that the great northern cities can work together to shape transport plans which would transform the economic competitiveness of the north – linking people to jobs, goods to customers and our businesses to international markets. Ensuring that Newcastle and the north east are part of an integrated approach to transport is essential to delivering our vision for economic growth in the region."

The report details transport investment across the north as a whole up to 2030 and it is estimated cost of between £10 and £15 billion, but the benefits far outweigh the costs and should be set in context with other transport funding requests – for example recent requests for transport funding in and around London total around £80 billion up to 2050.

Following the launch of the report, the partner cities will continue to work closely together and with key partners including Network Rail, the Highways Agency, HS2 and the government itself to develop the report into a phased and integrated investment programme. This will be determined by economic value and the potential to deliver a northern powerhouse.

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