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Nick Hill

UK high-speed rail network set to unlock £100bn in Northern Powerhouse

Northern MPs, civic leaders and businesses say that the UK must have a high-speed rail network linking North to South by the early 2030s to unlock a £100bn boost to the North’s economy.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) is calling on Government to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) at the same time as HS2 to narrowing the North-South divide.

The NPP suggest that this will open up much larger potential labour markets for businesses and enhanced leisure and social activities for families. International connectivity would also be transformed as 10 million people will be within two hours of Manchester Airport – the Northern Powerhouse’s international hub -compared to three million today.

The NPP also claims that establishing an NPR station in Liverpool, alongside HS2, would create 20,000 new jobs and £703m towards the economy. Redesigning Manchester Piccadilly to create an underground station, to allow high-speed trains to pass through without delay, is also critical to achieving significantly quicker journeys across the North.

Phase 2b of HS2, linking Manchester and Leeds to London and the West Midlands, is set to open in 2032/33.

Opening NPR at the same time would mean that children born last year could explore further education, apprenticeships or job opportunities throughout the UK, without the barrier of poor connectivity.

During a meeting this afternoon (Tuesday 27th), the Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) will hear from Andy Burnham, Elected Mayor of Greater Manchester and Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, about the transformational effects the proposed high-speed networks will have on their cities by connecting them to rest of the North, as well as Lord Jim O’Neill.

Currently, travelling from Manchester to Bradford by train takes 61 minutes – bringing in NPR would cut this to just 20 minutes.

This improvement can be achieved by building a tunnel to accommodate NPR in an underground station at Manchester Piccadilly, ensuring that HS2 trains can link with NPR trains and link with a second Greater Manchester station at Manchester Airport.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority claim the underground station represents “a once in a century opportunity” for Piccadilly and for ongoing connections across the wider North.

In Bradford, investment is needed in education and skills to create a skilled workforce with enhanced connections across the North and wider UK. By the time today’s pre-schoolers in Bradford are entering the world of work, they could travel to Manchester in 25 minutes, Hull in 53 (down from 91 currently), London in 92 (down from 171), Newcastle in 68 (down from 123) and Sheffield in 38 (from 85).

In parallel to the APPG meeting, Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, will use a keynote speech at a conference in Leeds to launch a campaign for NPR services to link to Sunderland.

To realise the overall economic benefit to the North, major towns such as Sunderland, Preston, Carlisle, Middlesbrough, Barnsley and its neighbours in South Yorkshire must be included in high-speed connections.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership Vice-Chair Lord Jim O’Neill said: “Getting Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered to the recommendations of Transport for the North is crucial for the success of the Northern Powerhouse.

“Without connecting as quickly and efficiently as possible the many closely-located towns and cities of the Northern Powerhouse, it will not be able to create the agglomeration benefits that would transform the economy of the UK, never mind just the North.

“Indeed by doing it, the financial investment justification for central government would vastly exceed the usual cautious value for money criteria, and be one of the most exciting things for post Brexit Britain, notably for an area that has many disillusioned voters.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford City Council, added: “Supporters of the Next Stop Bradford campaign have made the case for why a new line between Manchester and Leeds will have the greatest benefit if it includes a City Centre stop in Bradford. It is right that Bradford is now on the preferred route and that this route should be built sooner, rather than later, and will be most impactful if this is by when HS2 arrives in Yorkshire.

“At least £1.3bn of additional economic benefits will come from a Bradford City Centre station and will be unlocked through the direct connections to Manchester in 20 minutes and Leeds in seven minutes, as well as dramatically-improved connections to cities like Sheffield, Hull, Newcastle, Sunderland, Darlington and Middlesbrough.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, also commented: “Westminster has failed the North and given us a transport system which is simply not fit for the future. We need the Government to deliver East to West Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside HS2, with a revamped Manchester Piccadilly station at its heart.

“This is a clear call from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and our job now as political leaders is to gather the whole of the North behind this call, speaking with one voice to Government to demand the rail system the North deserves.”

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