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The North’s time is now

Transforming the North’s economy requires transformed transport infrastructure. ‘HS2 will profoundly transform north-south connectivity’ concludes the report of the House of Commons Select Committee that has been considering petitions from those directly affected by the Bill covering the HS2 route to Birmingham.  With this scrutiny stage completed, the Bill goes forward for consideration and decision in the House of Commons and the Lords.

Later this year we will hear the Government’s conclusions following consultation on the proposed HS2 route north from Crewe and from Birmingham to Leeds.  Step by step, 2026 with high speed trains running through to Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland and 2032 to Leeds and Newcastle are inexorably nearer.

Meanwhile, Transport for the North’s strategy sets the ambition for east-west connectivity across the North. Reducing journey times for the triangle of Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield rail links to 30 minute each is central to this ambition – and through to Liverpool in another 20 minutes and Newcastle in 60 minutes.

Leeds-Manchester in 30 minutes is quicker than Wembley-Canary Wharf on the Jubilee Line and many other journeys in London. Movement around the North, east-west as well as north-south will be transformed. With strengthened city regional transport networks the North will be able to operate as an integrated economy, supporting the agglomeration of economic activity in and around the North’s cities and strengthening economic performance.

Rail travel in the North – even with limited past investment – has been growing strongly, supporting the renaissance of the North’s cities to date. And there are clear signs that rail investment will further stimulate that growth. The first year of electrification between Liverpool and Manchester has seen as much as 11% growth in passenger numbers.  The new Trans Pennine Express franchise will see 125mph capable trains linking the North’s major cities, with new and strengthened services from Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds to Scotland. And by 2022 the North Trans Pennine route between Newcastle and Liverpool will be fully electrified.

But with growing demand for local rail services as well there will be a capacity crunch. New and faster east-west capacity across the Pennines is needed. There is an opportunity to accelerate the Yorkshire section of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield so it is complete well before 2032. And by connecting it into the existing network to reach the central stations in the two cities, this part of HS2 can meet the 30 minute journey times specified by Transport for the North for Leeds-Sheffield.  Importantly it would also allow for a future Northern Powerhouse rail scheme to use part of this Yorkshire section of HS2 to provide new faster links between Liverpool/Manchester and the main centres in Yorkshire, the Humber, the North East and East Midlands and deliver the 30 minute journey times specified for Manchester-Leeds and Manchester-Sheffield.

The moment needs to be seized. The North’s time is now.

Article in Construction News 

John Jarvis, Associate Director, Greengauge 21. Some Rights Reserved: We actively encourage people to use our work, and simply request that the use of any of our material is credited to Greengauge 21 in the following way: Greengauge 21, Title, Date