AS 2014: City’s influence acknowledged in small-print

George Osborne said there will be a feasibility study published in March 2015 into east-west rail improvements in the North, citing research published by Manchester City Council in the document accompanying his speech.

Osborne nodded to the One North lobbying paper published in August by Manchester, alongside Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield councils. He also quoted directly from the findings of the City Growth Commission chaired by Manchester economic advisor Jim O'Neill, which concluded in October.

Osborne wrote in his 108-page statement, published yesterday as he sat down from making his speech: "The City Growth Commission has noted: 'If our closely geographically located cities can have the best transport between them, allowing their current, and potential future consumers and producers to feel… part of one urban mass, then the benefits that typically accrue to London could be repeated elsewhere.'"

The Chancellor went on: "In October, Sir David Higgins' report concluded that a high speed rail link could significantly reduce journey times across the regions of the north. The Chancellor responded and announced the development of HS3, and the creation of Transport for the North, a new body that will be made up of the main northern city regions. The government, with Transport for the North, will produce a comprehensive transport strategy for the north. This will include options, costs and a delivery timetable for a HS3 east west rail connection, with an interim report in March 2015. The government is also analysing the possibility of accelerating construction of the HS2 Phase 2 route from north of Birmingham to Crewe, in order to bring the benefits of HS2 to the north sooner. This will be subject to decisions on phase 2 in 2015.

"The government will deliver, through the new franchises and the £1bn infrastructure investment already underway, new trains, faster journeys, more seats and more services. Invitations to tender for the next Northern and Trans-Pennine Express rail franchises will be published shortly. The new franchises, subject to business case development, will: deliver at least a 20% increase in capacity to reduce overcrowding; include new Rolling Stock fit for the 21st century; encourage bidders to replace the outdated pacer trains with modern, better quality trains; bring all the trains that remain up to modern standards; provide additional services across the network."

The new franchises are being commissioned jointly by Department for Transport and Rail North, a group of local authorities across the region.

There were also echoes of the road and infrastructure investments announced earlier this week in the run-up to yesterday's statement. These include £300m to improve road links to Liverpool Port and to Ellesmere Port.

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