George Osborne calls for stronger Northern cities

Chancellor says Newcastle and North East must team up with Manchester and Leeds as part of new high speed rail proposals

Chancellor George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne

The Chancellor has said Northern cities such as Newcastle can no longer go it alone as he calls for a “Northern powerhouse” to combat London’s sway over the UK.

George Osborne has called for greater co-operation between the likes of Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle and a new focus on transport links between them.

In a keynote speech in Manchester Mr Osborne said the North needed a new high speed rail linking up Leeds and Manchester, alongside other improvements to the rest of the region.

Mr Osborne said: “I’ve been a Member of Parliament here in the North West of England for 13 years.

Indeed, I’m the first Chancellor to represent a seat in the north of England for over 35 years.

“But as you can tell from my accent, I wasn’t brought up here. I was born and raised in London.

Being a Londoner proud to represent a Northern constituency gives me a very personal perspective on the time-worn debate about north and south, London and the rest.

“I grew up with the cliché that if it wasn’t happening in London, it wasn’t happening at all.

And my time in Parliament has been shaped by another cliché: that the dice are unfairly loaded against the north; that our capital city to the south has sucked economic life and talent away from here.

“It’s the context of almost every media interview I’ve done here, from when I was first a parliamentary candidate to my time now as Chancellor.

I’d like to try to escape both clichés today, and get closer to the truth.”

He added: “something remarkable has happened here in Manchester, and in Liverpool and Leeds and Newcastle and other northern cities over these last thirty years too.

The once hollowed-out city centres are thriving again, with growing universities, iconic museums and cultural events, and huge improvements to the quality of life.

“I feel the buzz and the energy every time I’m here. And I see it too in the Treasury data.

“Which part of England has the fastest-growing economic activity right now? The North East. Where are people joining the labour market at the fastest rate? The North-= West and North East.

“Where is construction strongest? Yorkshire and Humberside. We’ve seen massive investments all over the north. Hitachi, Nissan and Rolls Royce in the North East.”

On High Speed Rail Mr Osborne said: “I am saying today: we need to think big.

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.”

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