Chancellor urged not to overlook region after new high speed hopes revealed

Chancellor George Osborne has been urged not to overlook the North East in any future high speed rail plans

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

George Osborne has been urged not to repeat the mistakes of High Speed 2 with another North East rail snub.

The Chancellor yesterday revealed his hopes, as yet unbudgeted, of building a third high speed link from Manchester to Leeds.

The move would shrink journey times between two cities the Chancellor says must combined to form the basis of a Northern powerhouse.

But there was no suggestion of bringing in the North East to what would be a multi-billion pound infrastructure project.

Mr Osborne told an audience in Manchester: “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. As well as fixing the roads, that means considering a new high speed rail link.

“Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds. Based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure. A third high speed railway for Britain.”

The North East though has already missed out on current high speed plans. A £50bn plan will see trains go from London to Birmingham before eventually heading off on two lines to Leeds and Manchester.

How a train on HS2 could look as it speeds between London and Birmingham
How a train on HS2 could look as it speeds between London and Birmingham

In a further blow to the region, Network Rail is already look at ending services from London through Newcastle to Scotland up the East Coast in order to make way for high-speed trains travelling at conventional speeds to Tyneside past Leeds.

The North East Chamber of Commerce has said the Government must realise the North is more than just Yorkshire.

Director of policy Ross Smith said: “The Chancellor’s speech is good news and provides an indication that effort is being put into connecting the North of England. High speed rail will increase capacity and speed up our vital rail links and as such we welcome its development.

“The prospect of a high-speed east-west link across the North is a good start, but the North of the country does not stop at Leeds. This announcement must be part of a larger effort to create a full high speed northern rail network.

“The Chancellor’s ambition for a Northern ‘HS3’ is positive and this project could play a large part in strengthening and balancing growth across the whole of the country

“Of course we want to see a firm commitment from to include the North East in future plans for high speed rail, but for now the Government must ensure that the Chancellor’s words amount to more than just a political speech. They must form the basis of a regional strategy that has been missing in recent years.”

That concern was backed by legal firm Ward Hadaway’s managing partner Jamie Martin. He said: “The Chancellor must not forget the North East in his plans, nor Humberside or Merseyside. A high speed, regular train service linking the North East with the North West through Yorkshire would have a genuine transformational effect on the whole of the North and would greatly accelerate the growth of our economy, not just in the North but across the UK.”

The Government has said it is already benefiting transport users across the North with the £600m Northern Hub rail improvements based on access to Manchester.


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