The Budget confirmed a £300m funding package, previously announced in October, to help improve connectivity between HS2 and stations in Manchester and Crewe, alongside £35m to help improve mobile communications for train passengers on the Trans-Pennine route from Manchester to York.
The Chancellor first announced the £300m package last month, which will support connecting existing infrastructure to proposed HS2 stations at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport, and Crewe.
The funding would be required to help support plans for a transport hub in central Manchester, which includes the potential construction of a new underground station at Piccadilly. The existing facilities at Piccadilly station will host HS2 services from 2033.
A report to Greater Manchester’s executive last month warned that the investment required for the station would “go beyond the budget available to HS2 Ltd for constructing the HS2 stations, and the budgets and revenue powers currently available to the council or its Greater Manchester partners”, heightening the need for Government funding.
Some of the £300m funding will be used to improve local rail connections across the North West.
At the time, former Chancellor George Osborne welcomed the funding as a “downpayment” on Northern Powerhouse Rail, but think tank IPPR North said the money was “a drop in the ocean”.
The Budget also pledged £35m towards improving mobile communications among a handful of railway lines in Britain, including the Trans-Pennine route between Manchester, Leeds, and York. The Government will fund the installation of improve trackside infrastructure along the route.
The announcement of the Trans-Pennine mobile communications funding was met with disdain by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham:
So no news on Mcr-Leeds electrification. But at least we’ll now be able to send texts to say the train in stuck in a field near Huddersfield https://t.co/0dK3d5AF4L
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) November 22, 2017
Andrew McFarlane, director and head of North West at Colliers International, welcomed the Chancellor’s confirmation of investment in Northern railways.
“His announcement of further investment in to rail infrastructure, in particular, funding for mobile and digital connectivity on Trans-Pennine routes, will be music to many Northern commuters’ ears,” he said.
“However, despite the Chancellor’s claims that productivity is key to the health of our overall economy, HS3 was left out. Investment in infrastructure to shorten journey times from Sheffield to Manchester and Manchester to Leeds is vital if we are to realise the economic growth potential of the North.”