High-speed rail link needed to boost north - Osborne

 

George Osborne: "The cities of the north together can be greater than the sum of their parts"

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A so-called HS3 high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds could help to create a "northern global powerhouse", George Osborne has said.

He told the BBC better road and rail links would allow cities across northern England from Liverpool to Hull "to take on the world", as London did.

The chancellor said the plan could cost up to £7bn - but could be cheaper if existing rail lines were updated.

Labour said "nobody" believed the Tories could deliver jobs in the north.

Mr Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme - before a speech in Manchester - that the cities in the North of England were individually strong but were "collectively not strong enough".

He said that in the past few decades giant global cities, such as London, had emerged - and that the string of northern cities, with better transport links and careful planning, could take them on and be "greater than the sum of their parts".

Current rail journey times

  • Leeds-Manchester: 49 mins (36 miles/58km)
  • Liverpool-Manchester: 32 mins (31 miles/50km)
  • Hull-Leeds: 55 mins (31 miles/50km)
  • Reading-London: 28 mins (37 miles/59km)
  • Chelmsford-London: 34 mins (30 miles/49km)
  • Luton-London: 23 mins (29 miles/47km)

Approximate fastest times. Source: National Rail Enquiries

Mr Osborne said the building of the east-west link should be considered as part of a review into the second phase of the £50bn HS2 high-speed rail project.

The current plan for the first phase of the project between London and Birmingham has proved controversial. Some residents are set to be disrupted and there is criticism of its price tag.

The government's preferred route for the second phase involves extensions linking Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds - with the final route expected to be chosen by the end of this year.

Mr Osborne said in his speech that it was not "healthy for our economy, not good for our country" if "the powerhouse of London dominates more and more".

Along with improving roads - the M62 already links Liverpool on the west coast with Hull on the east coast, via Manchester and Leeds - Mr Osborne says a new high-speed rail link should be considered, based on the existing rail route but with new tunnels and infrastructure.

Map of HS2 with additional possible HS3 link The green line between Manchester and Leeds shows the existing route which Mr Osborne says could form the basis for a new high speed link

The fastest rail services between Leeds and Manchester currently take about 50 minutes - already quicker than many journeys across London.

The plan would be to cut this to 30 minutes, with trains travelling at up to 140mph, compared with the current maximum of 90mph and the 225mph maximum speed for the fastest bit of HS2.

"We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west - to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city.

Richard Westcott reports on some of the problems the HS3 project may encounter

"I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds."

Start Quote

Those who hate Britain's lopsided London-centricity might want to think about the idea of promoting the creation of a far bigger second city”

End Quote

A spokesman for Nick Clegg welcomed Mr Osborne's plan, adding that the deputy prime minister had long believed Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield "should become a 'Northern golden triangle' to drive economic growth in the North".

He said: "George Osborne's new found commitment today is welcome and we are now hopeful that he will match his words with action by backing the Leeds City Region growth deal and its proposals for better transport links to other cities across the North."

But CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall gave a cautious welcome: "Better east-west links in the north could provide a huge boost to local businesses, and help further balance the UK economy by creating a northern hub.

"However, any proposals need careful planning. The priority must be boosting connections, not speed. We need to see more detail for such a project, which must be good value for money for the taxpayer."

BBC political correspondent Vicki Young says Conservative support in the North of England has been declining and Mr Osborne's statement will be seen as an attempt to show the party is keen to increase prosperity beyond its traditional strongholds in the south.

There is, however, little detail about how these plans would be funded, and Mr Osborne said he did not yet have timescales - but he wanted "to start a conversation".

"A true powerhouse requires true power," says Chancellor George Osborne

Mr Osborne also told the BBC he wanted to see new positions of elected mayoralties being created - including one for Greater Manchester along the lines of London's - to help drive forward economic growth in the north.

Detail from high speed rail map

Maps of the HS2 route on the project's website

For Labour, shadow chancellor Mr Balls said regional growth divides had "widened markedly since 2010", when the coalition government was formed.

"On high-speed rail, we said months ago that we need value for money for the taxpayer and to improve the existing plans to maximise the benefits for the whole country, and strengthen the links between northern cities.

"Ministers need finally to start listening."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1286.

    As someone who was brought up in industrial Lancashire but has lived in the South since I came to London as a student in 1964 all HS2 will do is bring Birmingham nearer to London not the other way round. What is need is a decent speed line (or series of lines) connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds Sheffield and Hull.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1244.

    I'm so very glad that I don't live anywhere near the routes planned for all three HS's, and can't understand this blinkered obsession that saving just a few minutes off a journey is more important than looking after what little countryside is left, quite apart from the upheaval for those directly affected. It is another example of the selfish few dominating government policy.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1075.

    Can't we just have some trains between towns and cities that don't stop at other stations? That would cut journey times down dramatically without the need for expensive new infrastructure.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 957.

    HS3 seems to make significantly more sense than HS2. East west travel across the pennies is notoriously poor. The price tag is significantly less than HS2 as well. Preston - Euston can be done in about 2hrs now so traveling to London from the North isn't really a problem why not build HS3 first. Ah I suspect there is no obvious direct benefit to Londoners only that strange breed of northerners

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 883.

    A plan which should be implemented as soon as possible, and should include Liverpool. Current journey times between the main centres could be halved.

    But claims about London draining life out of other UK cities are rubbish. If London was not successful businesses located there would move to another global centre and huge amounts of income and tax revenue would be lost.

 

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  65.  
    12:33: House of Commons Parliament

    Conservative MPs cheer the mention of the party's "long-term economic plan" catchphrase by Lancashire and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw, who asks about support for coastal communities.

     
  66.  
    @ShippersUnbound Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: In the House that felt like 4-2 to Cameron. On television I suspect it was 4-2 to Miliband. So I'm going 3-3. More hot air than light

     
  67.  
    12:29: Hinchingbrooke hospital House of Commons Parliament

    Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert raises the privately-run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. Mr Cameron says Labour is in confusion over the extent of private sector involvement in the NHS.

     
  68.  
    @nicholaswatt Nicholas Watt, Guardian chief political correspondent

    Tweets: Will @David_Cameron's voice last till end of PMQs

     
  69.  
    12:27: A whisper in Cameron's ear House of Commons Parliament

    George Osborne has a habit of whispering advice to the prime minister as questions are asked, and this week is no exception. He's leaned forward, unlike every other Cabinet frontbencher, throughout these exchanges so he can get past Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers to give Cameron hints.

    David Cameron answers questions at PMQs - with help from George Osborne
     
  70.  
    Vicki Young, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: Felt like both Cameron and Miliband went off script at #PMQs as they yelled at each other about NHS. Cam's voice croaky from shouting

     
  71.  
    12:25: Skinner on food banks House of Commons Parliament

    Labour veteran Dennis Skinner asks David Cameron to apologise to people using food banks, on "zero hours" contracts and using payday loans. Mr Cameron says the government has acted on food banks and zero hours contracts, and uses the question to mention criticism of Labour election tactics from former Labour ministers Alan Milburn and John Hutton in this morning's papers.

     
  72.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

    tweets: Small irony. Watching from my sickbed as PM tries to shield himself on NHS by quoting my "weaponise" report. Time for an aspirin! :) #pmqs

     
  73.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson, Political Betting

    Tweets: Today's #PMQs is the best argument against having TV debates. This is dire.

     
  74.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

    Tweets; Miliband let Cameron off the hook for breaking promises by shutting NHS units. Won't keep that #pmqs in his video highlights

     
  75.  
    @thomasbrake Tom Brake, Lib Dem MP

    tweets: #pmqs nhs centre stage. All that was missing was a reference to #savesthelier.

     
  76.  
    @andybell5news Andy Bell, Channel 5 News political editor

    tweets: Win for Cameron - Miiband failed to make new #NHS attack stick after NHS England shot it down - also still vulnerable on the w word

     
  77.  
    12:19: Stuck in the middle? House of Commons Parliament

    Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert is next up after the prime minister's tussle with Ed Miliband. He invokes Stealers Wheel hit Stuck in the Middle with You, saying there are "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right".

     
  78.  
    Robin Brant, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: Did I just hear correctly, @Ed_Miliband accused PM of having a 'war on wales' ?

     
  79.  
    12:17: Leaders clash House of Commons Parliament

    More angry exchanges between the leaders. After David Cameron calls the Opposition "completely useless", Mr Milband says there are "99 days to kick out a prime minister who has broken all his promises on the NHS".

     
  80.  
    @iainmartin1 Iain Martin, political journalist

    Even by the standards of #PMQs this is dire.

     
  81.  
    @ShippersUnbound 12:16: Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: Michael Gove doing a good impersonation of the Churchill dog, nodding judiciously as Dave speaks

     
  82.  
    @DavidJonesMP 12:15: David Jones, Conservative MP

    tweets: Remarkably, Miliband raises Welsh NHS; silly, silly.

     
  83.  
    @tombradby Tom Bradby, ITV News political editor

    Tweets: Ed is normally pretty good at PMQs, but he looks a bit flustered today. This issue over the word 'weaponise' is tricky.

     
  84.  
    12:14: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    David Cameron is now questioning Ed Miliband's motives about the NHS. "He told the political editor of the BBC he wants to weaponise the NHS, so I ask him again: get up there and withdraw." Miliband responds - "I'll tell him what my motive is: it's to rescue the National Health Service from this Tory government."

     
  85.  
    12:12: Picture: Ed Miliband asking question
    Ed Miliband in the Commons
     
  86.  
    12:13: House of Commons Parliament

    Now we're on to this morning's story about "major incidents" being declared by NHS trusts. Mr Cameron says the new guidance on when one can be declared was issued by the NHS in the West Midlands, "without any instruction" from ministers or the Department of Health.

     
  87.  
    12:10: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    Ed Miliband is asking about David Cameron's "bare knuckle fight" to preserve A&E and maternity units. The PM responds by returning to the Labour leader's comment - to BBC political editor Nick Robinson - about wanting to "weaponise" the NHS. He demands an apology, Mr Miliband says it is a "ridiculous smokescreen".

     
  88.  
    @iainjwatson Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: No surprise that Ed Miliband goes on the #NHS consistently top of voters concerns according to polls

     
  89.  
    12:09: Picture: Ed Miliband House of Commons Parliament
    Ed Miliband
     
  90.  
    12:08: Cigarette packaging Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman has refused to say directly if David Cameron supports moves to bring it in The government has pledged to give MPs a vote on new regulations before the election. Asked if the PM was concerned about the prospect of a rebellion by some of his own MPs the spokesman said: "The right thing to do is to proceed as the government has set out for some considerable time."

     
  91.  
    12:06: Labour's Eds listen to first answer
    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband
     
  92.  
    12:06: NHS at PMQs House of Commons Parliament

    The NHS gets its first PMQs mention in question two, from Labour MP Lilian Greenwood who suggests the health service is not a priority for David Cameron. The PM says the government has invested in the NHS and attacks Labour's record in Wales.

     
  93.  
    @MartynExpress Martyn Brown, Daily Express political correspondent

    Tweets: Women on front bench - Tories 8 v Labour 8 #pmqs

     
  94.  
    12:05: Picture: Cameron takes first question
    David Cameron
     
  95.  
    12:04: Picture: Frank Field House of Commons Parliament
    Frank Field Labour MP Frank Field asks when the Chilcot inquiry report will be published
     
  96.  
    12:04: PMQs under way

    Labour MP Frank Field gets Prime Minister's Questions up and running, asking about delays to the Iraq War inquiry. David Cameron says he too is frustrated at the timing.

     
  97.  
    12:04: UKIP defector James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale says most voters won't be too bothered by the negative stories emerging about Amjad Bashir, the former UKIP MEP who has defected to the Tories. He says: "As ever with defections, they are never as clean as political parties would like. The problem for UKIP is that most voters are less aware of the detail that goes on underneath."

     
  98.  
    @nedsimons 12:03: Ned Simons, Huffington Post UK assistant political editor

    Tweets: Can't wait for Miliband and Cameron to shout NHS statistics at each other for ten minutes. #PMQs

     
  99.  
    12:01: Miliband's only PMQs option: The NHS James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale on the Daily Politics says he thinks the Labour leader will focus all six of his questions on the NHS. "I would be amazed if Ed Miliband doesn't go on health - that's his subject of the week, he has to go on it. "

     
  100.  
    12:00: Immigration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Earlier on Daily Politics David Willetts was pressed by Andrew Neil to accept that the Conservatives have failed on immigration. Ministers had sought to cut net migration below 100,000. Mr Willetts suggested a Tory-only government might have made more progress, saying: "We had a commitment in our manifesto which was not part of the coalition agreement and therefore not the basis on which the government was to act."

     

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