North of England needs HS3 to link up cities, says infrastructure commission

15 Mar 16

The National Infrastructure Commission has called for a high-speed rail network in the North of England to be put at the heart of an infrastructure plan for the region.

The commission, which was created by chancellor George Osborne last October, said the government should set out a plan to create what it called a High Speed North by the end of 2017.

The region has both a need for “immediate and very significant investment” and also for a plan for longer-term transformation to reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve reliability.

The commission has recommended a series of upgrades and new infrastructure to create a high speed HS3 network from Liverpool in the west to Hull and Newcastle in the east, as well redevelopment of the North’s gateway stations. This should also include full integration with High Speed 2 to improve connections within the North, including between Leeds-Sheffield, Liverpool-Manchester, and Sheffield-Newcastle.

HS3 should be viewed as a high capacity rail network, rather than a single piece of entirely new infrastructure, according to the NIC. It proposes two phases of work, with initial improvements to cut the journey time between Manchester and Leeds from 49 to 40 minutes by December 2022. The second phase would then further cut times across the region, and to as low as 30 minutes between those two cities.

NIC chair Lord Adonis said that the North needed to be better connected to realise the government’s visions for a Northern Powerhouse.

“Leeds and Manchester are just 40 miles apart but there is no quick and easy way to travel between the two. In rush hour it can take more than two hours by car, by train it can be almost an hour,” he highlighted.

“So we should kick start HS3 across the Pennines and slash journey times to just 30 minutes. But we must not wait decades for change – journey times should be cut to 40 minutes by 2022.

“A transformed northern rail network should include high speed connections to HS2 and the dramatic redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly to deliver jobs and investment across the centre of the city.”

Prioritising development on the links likeliest to provide the strongest benefits led to the focus on the trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds, the NIC stated. A “full range of options” must be considered for a second phase to provide a further step-change in connectivity between Leeds and Sheffield, between Liverpool and Manchester (and its airport), and between Sheffield and Newcastle, as well as to onward destinations.

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