by Phil Marsh

High Speed Two northern connectional link line proposals announced

Published: 27th October 2014

Plans for an upgraded Transpennine line linking HS2 with Leeds and York via HS3 unveiled.

Lets be clear! It’s NOT HS3 in the true sense of high speed rail definitions, but a major route upgrade creating faster trains and reduced travel times between Manchester, Leeds and York which will connect with HS2 services.

The existing Transpennine route is not fast and has reached capacity with five trains an hour in each direction at time between Manchester and Leeds. The plan builds on with an earlier announcement that a new line between Liverpool and the east coast was being considered costing £15 Billion which would drive what was called a northern powerhouse based on great public transport.

Long term plan or short term election policy?

The government says the idea is part of a long term economic plan for the north, the Prime Minister and Chancellor today gave their backing to develop HS3 connecting the north’s major cities.

It all began when HS2 Chairman Sir David Higgins published his findings into how to maximise the benefits of HS2 in the north and improving transport links there. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor were responding to this report which identifies the vital importance of improving east west connectivity across the north looking at the role a high speed rail link could play. If the line is built, it would reduce the time taken between Leeds and Manchester from around 55 to between 26 and 34 minutes.

Sir David Higgins also said that co-operation on transport issues should be formalised in the north and now the Chancellor announced the creation Transport for the North made up of the main northern city regions. This will work with other authorities and stakeholders enabling the north to speak with one voice on the big decisions to benefit the whole region. This will no doubt be taking part in rail franchising adding another layer of cost to it.

The government and Transport for the North, will now develop a comprehensive transport strategy by March, for the region looking at options, costs and a delivery timetable for a HS3 east west rail connection.

Government high speed railway review

The government has started looking at the costs and time it takes to build high speed rail using experience gained abroad to find ways to reduce HS2 and subsequent high speed rail schemes.

This latest report strongly backs Phase Two of HS2 and has revised somewhat its plans now suggesting bringing forward plans for a hub station at Crewe to 2027 with a fundamental review of the right solution for HS2 connections to Leeds station. Railtrack upgraded Leeds just 15 years ago but the demand for trains has already overtaken those improvements made.

Two new platforms will be built alongside Manchester Piccadilly’s through Platforms number 14 doubling capacity through the city.

They said:

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Improving connectivity and reducing journey times between our great northern cities is a crucial part of our long term economic plan for the north to boost businesses and create more jobs and security for hardworking people. That’s why we are backing HS3.

I welcome Sir David Higgins’ report which will help our work to create a northern powerhouse and ensure that HS2 delivers the maximum economic benefits.

Chancellor George Osborne said:

The vision I set out earlier this year of the northern powerhouse we could build is rapidly taking shape. I asked Sir David Higgins to look at how we deliver the better transport links across the north that would make a reality of that powerhouse.

I’m delighted with the rapid response and the report. Today we take another big step forward in delivering both the HS2 links from north to south and the HS3 link across the Pennines.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

Our northern cities are on the brink of an economic transformation and today’s report underlines how we can secure this by bringing those cities together to maximise the benefits of good transport links.

HS2 is crucial to this, and I welcome Sir David’s findings on how we can ensure the phase two route delivers maximum economic benefits throughout the midlands and the north. But as he says, it is only through linking the east and west of the region that we can really unlock these benefits, not just along the route itself but right across the north.

We have already made great progress towards starting work on this vital project, and I will now give further consideration to Sir David’s comments.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

We owe it to taxpayers to make sure the benefits of these projects are maximised and the costs are tightly controlled. Today’s report shows how better transport links will help unleash the north’s tremendous potential for growth which will benefit the whole of the UK.

We have asked Sir David to do some important further work on how to maximise the significant benefits HS2 will bring to Scotland. It is also essential that this project is delivered as cost effectively as possible, which is why we are doing further work to see how international best practice can reduce costs.

One north

The Chancellor asked Sir David Higgins to consider how to address poor east-west transport links in the north in June this year. This call for a new high speed rail link across the Pennines was also backed by the One North report by northern city authorities in August.

The revised plans could mean that the proposed HS2 East Midlands station at Toton will not be built but another will be nearer Breaston is more likely offering better road and rail connections via the M1 and Midland Main Line” benefitting Nottingham and Derby.

The plans unveiled a few months ago suggested that Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds Sheffield and Newcastle should be viewed as one massive urban area linked by a great rail network. Each city’s rail network is under strain with capacity issues and a new fast network would help provide more rail capacity and ease road congestion. A new Transpennine line would see trains running at up to 125mph, not 200mph as with true High Speed routes.

The former Network Southeast area is under similar pressures but has Crossrail and Thameslink costing around £25 billion to resolve many issues. The same is required in the north.

The northern city representatives argue that strong commuter growth on the upgraded rail routes means they will be at or near capacity immediately. This has brought a growing catchment area to growing labour markets in the key urban centres across the North. Others argue that it will mean people will get to work in London even faster and drain the north.

Freight will benefit from more paths and after a gauge enhancement project, more and larger trains will be able to operate linking ports on the east and west coast as well as inland ports such as at Doncaster.

The enhanced east-west route would involve some new tunnels and also use existing tracks with a mix of new and existing trains. No costings or timescales have been announced.

What is certain is that new connections are promised and that before these can help passengers, there will be several General Elections. Is the timing of this announcement a coincidence? Who knows!

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