The Northern Powerhouse Partnership has called on Government to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail by 2032/33, providing high-speed links between regional cities at the same time as HS2 reaches the north.
The Northern Powerhouse all-party parliamentary group meets this afternoon and will hear representations from figures including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chairman of the NPP.
O’Neill, who advised George Osborne’s Treasury on the Northern Powerhouse and has more recently been advising the Liverpool City Region, said that the benefits would be political as well as economic: “Getting Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered to the recommendations of Transport for the North is crucial for the success of the Northern Powerhouse.
“Without connecting as quickly and efficiently as possible the many closely-located towns and cities of the Northern Powerhouse, it will not be able to create the agglomeration benefits that would transform the economy of the UK, never mind just the North.
“Indeed by doing it, the financial investment justification for central government would vastly exceed the usual cautious value for money criteria, and be one of the most exciting things for post-Brexit Britain, notably for an area that has many disillusioned voters.”
The NPR proposals include a new Liverpool station. City mayor Joe Anderson said: “Investing in our infrastructure across the whole country is a must – we must be bold and create a network of connected cities.
“We cannot pause this process, as it would slow down growth and investment in those areas left out. Not connecting Liverpool directly is a missed opportunity and shows a lack of vision.”
The changes proposed would put 10m people within two hours of Manchester Airport, compared to 3m today and speed journeys through bottlenecks such as Manchester Piccadilly with the introduction of underground platforms, allowing HS2 trains to seamlessly link with NPR trains and link with a second Greater Manchester station at Manchester Airport.
The current proposed alignment of HS2 track will force a ‘turn-back’ option for NPR with the station remodelled on a piecemeal basis, the partnership said.
Burnham said: “Westminster has failed the North and given us a transport system which is simply not fit for the future. We need the Government to deliver east to eest Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside HS2, with a revamped Manchester Piccadilly station at its heart.
“This is a clear call from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and our job now as political leaders is to gather the whole of the North behind this call, speaking with one voice to Government to demand the rail system the North deserves.
“We’ve has a lot of talk from ministers but now is the time for them to show their commitment to the North of England and give us the infrastructure we need to create jobs, boost productivity and tackle the north-south divide.”
Senior property industry figures echoed Burnham’s call. Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at Bruntwood, said: “Connecting our great Northern cities with faster, more frequent, high quality rail links is a high priority for many businesses.
“Committing to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside HS2 would be an incredible endorsement for the Northern economy. The economic gains could be £100bn.
“Securing Government support for delivering new infrastructure – like the redesign of Manchester Piccadilly to accommodate high speed trains, a new 30-minute connection between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford and a new station in Liverpool –which alongside HS2 would create 20,000 new jobs – is vital and I urge all Northern businesses to endorse this campaign.”
Steve Gillingham, director for the north at Mace, said: “Northern Powerhouse Rail will be game changing – it is the greatest connectivity opportunity of this generation. Connecting the North to a faster and more frequent rail network that ensures 1.3m people are within one hour of four of the largest cities will transform the way labour markets work and where people choose to live.
“This investment will unlock increased access to skills and jobs across the whole NPR network which in turn lead to a boost in productivity and global competitiveness.
“This is an opportunity the government should grasp with both hands to deliver a truly transformational infrastructure project. We are urging the Ministers and Civil Servants to look seriously at the timescales for NPR and work with northern leaders and Transport for the North to make the vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.”
The move by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has triggered some political jockeying for position, with the West and Wales Strategic Rail Prospectus this week being launched by councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships in Cheshire and North Wales.
The document is billed as aligning with the Northern Powerhouse Rail, and seeks support for rail improvements centred around making Warrington, Crewe, Chester and Manchester Airport hubs of an improved network.
Burnham and his opposite number in Liverpool, Steve Rotheram, have also called for a Convention of the North, bringing civic and business leaders together during the Great Exhibition in Newcastle and Gateshead in late June. The convention would focus on rail investment, Brexit and devolution.