HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins' second report into the future of the high-speed rail service was published today, supporting proposals from Northern cities for significantly improved east-west links.
The report Rebalancing Britain: From HS2 towards a national transport strategy, reaffirmed the need for the HS2 train line, and investigated the need for better rail network connections across the UK.
Higgins said the HS3 project outlined in the One North report released earlier this year would be as transformative for the Northern regions as Crossrail in London, but also called for wider efforts to improve connectivity across the North.
Higgins stated his support for the HS2 route into Manchester city centre via Manchester Airport, with a station stop at the airport.
He recommended the site of a further North West station at Crewe, which he said should be operational by 2027, five years earlier than expected. The journey times between Crewe and London would be cut by 35 minutes.
Higgins also proposed the creation of a unified transport body to match London's by forming Transport for the North. It will cover five city regions – Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull – and work with authorities and stakeholders.
The report has now been submitted to the Government and the final decision on the recommendations from Higgins will be made by ministers.
Reactions to Sir David Higgins' Rebalancing Britain report:
Lord Peter Smith, chairman of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: "Greater Manchester warmly welcomes this report and the strong economic and wider benefits it will deliver nationally, across the North and for Greater Manchester.
"Crucially the report endorses the work which has been undertaken through One North – which looks to drive economic growth across the North through a programme of improvements to road and rail, better connecting our ports and airports as well as our great cities.
"HS2 and the two Greater Manchester stations will stimulate unprecedented growth and regeneration and will put Manchester at the heart of a Northern Powerhouse.
"We also look forward to continuing to work with HS2 and DfT on the creation of a link through Wigan to the West Coast Main Line recognised as a necessary element of HS2 and we continue to support this vital link through."
In response to the announcement on the station at Crewe, Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council said: "The Crewe HS2 Superhub will produce 64,000 jobs and boost the North West's economic output by £3.5bn each year. It will act as a major gateway for the region, energising the northern powerhouse.
"There are more than 800 acres of prime development land near to the Superhub station. Overall, we believe that HS2 will unlock development sites throughout Cheshire and North Staffordshire for new offices, factories, warehouses shops and new homes.
"The newly located station creates the opportunity for a well-planned, multi-modal station interchange, with new transit links into Crewe. We can also introduce new connectivity to other towns in Cheshire."
David Lathwood, lead director for the North West at JLL, said: "HS3 should be a priority infrastructure project and delivered in tandem with HS2. The economic case for developing faster connections across the Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds corridor is clear as day and is as important for the north as Crossrail is to the capital. When you consider that the distance from Manchester to Leeds is the same as London's Central line, then the potential for HS3 to unlock growth is significant."
Simon Allport, North West senior partner at EY, said: "The creation of Transport for the North is an important development because it gives cities and areas a united voice around major transport decisions as the Northern Powerhouse vision gradually becomes a reality. This enhanced level of coordination could help to combine the benefits of individual schemes by ensuring their integration is formally managed, making it simpler to deliver a coherent set of programmes all pointing towards a common goal."
Richard Gregg, regional chairman for the Forum for Small Businesses' Manchester and North Cheshire region, said: "There is widespread consensus that transport infrastructure in the North of England needs to be brought up to speed, and more frequent, reliable trains between Manchester and Leeds would also serve to ease congestion on the region's motorways.
"However, this is just a starting point and it is important and timely that we move from recommendations and announcements to actions. Continued regional growth in the North of England depends on Government taking decisive action to make it an even better place to do business and better connected cities could only help support this aim."