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Nick Hill

Businesses call on Government to ‘urgently’ support Northern Powerhouse Rail

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is being urged to show a “firm commitment” to Northern Powerhouse Rail by business leaders from across the North.

Ahead of a Q&A session in Leeds today (Friday 22nd September), the Secretary of State will have a private meeting with the Board of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) about transport issues affecting growth and productivity in the region.

The visit comes as new research from NPP shows that more than 80% of Northerners believe upgraded transport links across the region will give a major boost to local businesses.

The findings also reveal that three quarters of people think that the government has not invested enough in transport infrastructure in the North.

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is a scheme which aims to reduce journey times and increase capacity across the North. Under NPR proposals, passengers could travel between Leeds and Manchester in half an hour and Newcastle to Leeds in an hour.

According to the One North study, commuting between Manchester and Leeds city regions is 40% lower than expected given their proximity, and a reduction of just 20 minutes in journey times between the two cities is estimated to be worth almost £7bn to the Northern economy.

Research undertaken by Transport for the North (TfN) has also shown that less than 10,000 people can access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour. This would rise to 1.3 million once Northern Powerhouse Rail is delivered.

NPR would also provide improved links in to Manchester Airport, the region’s hub airport providing global connectivity to the Northern Powerhouse.

NPP and a range of businesses across the North are calling on the government to commit to the construction of the NPR network as the next phase of the country’s High Speed Rail Network at the Autumn Budget on 22nd November. More than 80 Northern businesses have signed a letter calling for commitment to NPR.

Lord Jim O’Neill, NPP board member, who will chair today’s meeting with the Secretary of State, said: “I welcome the Secretary of State’s visit to Leeds, and I have every confidence that he will hear loud and clear how important business and civic leaders in the North consider Northern Powerhouse Rail to be.

“NPR will boost investment opportunities in towns and cities right across the North of England. Our polling underlines the huge public and business support for an east-west rail network. If the Transport Secretary is serious about spreading regional growth across Britain, it’s vital that he urgently backs our plans for a new rail link.

“The Northern Powerhouse Partnership is confident that we will see a commitment to this transformational scheme in the Autumn Budget, and we are looking forward to working closely with Government to make it a reality – starting in Leeds today.”

Steve Gillingham, director for the North at Mace, added: “Northern Powerhouse Rail will transform the economy of the North by dramatically widening the jobs market for millions of workers in the North.

“It will also improve Britain’s global trading ambitions by bringing a population of more than 10 million people within an hour of Manchester Airport, the North’s hub airport.

“Nobody begrudges the investment being made into Crossrail 2 for London but what we want this government to do is to also honour its commitment to the great cities of the North of England.

“Unless the government commit real funding for the Northern Powerhouse people will begin to believe that it is little more than political rhetoric.

“The government has officially acknowledged the historic underinvestment in Northern infrastructure and promised to tackle it. Northern Powerhouse Rail could be the catalyst for finally addressing the UK’s long-standing North-South divide. Let’s make it happen.”

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