Network North policy paper cover, p government documents

Network North was unveiled at the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday. Credit: via government documents

What is Network North?

HS2’s demise has led to the birth of another set of promised transportation transformations, dubbed “Network North” by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his Conservative Party Conference speech on Wednesday.

Sunak pledged to spend “every penny” from the shelved £36bn Birmingham-Manchester leg of the high-speed rail line on this new endeavour. Network North is set to include investment in road infrastructure, proposals to electrify and improve rail lines across the North, and support for bus service improvements.

Sunak described the schemes in Network North as “the projects that will make a real difference across our nation” in his speech.

Northern leaders did not seem impressed by the Network North proposals as outlined by Sunak on Wednesday. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham described Network North as “a coherent plan that has been broken up and scattered around”.

Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said she would work with the government on Network North, but added that much of what she had heard during the Prime Minister’s speech was “rehashed”.

“Much of it is insinuations of plans that are already in place or plans that this Prime Minister as chancellor sought to cancel,” Craig said.

“We need to approach this with diligence and a watchful eye to make sure the North isn’t being hoodwinked into the promise of more cash, into the promise of more investment, and into the promise of legislation to deliver this without it being realistic or without it ever being on the table,” she continued.

Below you’ll find a summary of the key Network North initiatives in the North West. Want to immerse yourself in all things Network North? Read the full policy paper.

£12bn is allocated to better connect Manchester and Liverpool. According to the government, this investment will “allow the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail as previously planned, including high-speed lines”.

Nearly £4bn will be allocated to improve six Northern city areas. In the North West, this includes extending the Manchester Metrolink to Heywood, Bolton, and Wigan. Bus rapid transport corridors in Manchester are part of this as well. The government also promises to extend the Metrolink to Manchester Airport – an interesting premise as the Metrolink’s airport extension completed in 2014. Update 5 Oct: the extension is to go to Terminal 2 of the airport and thus, is, in fact, new.

£2.5bn will be set aside for a new fund for local transport projects in smaller cities and towns. This could be used for new stations, bus corridors, integrated public transport networks and electrification of existing routes. The policy paper states: “Projects could include more trams for Blackpool, more electric buses in Harrogate, and better bus-rail interchange in Scarborough.”

Upgrades to the Energy Coast Line between Carlisle, Workington, and Barrow will be made. These improvements will increase capacity and shorten journey times – while also allowing trains to travel every 30 minutes on the route. Regular services are promised between Westlakes Science Park, Nuclear Academy, and Sellafield. The improved line will help create more than 18,000 jobs, according to the government. The policy paper adds that these upgrades will also be designed to accommodate the freight demands from West Cumbria Mining’s contentious new coal mine.

£3bn is reserved for improving connections between major cities. This work will include electrifying and improving line speeds between Hull and Leeds and Hull and Sheffield. The result will see travellers able to go from Manchester to Hull in 84 minutes – 23 minutes less than it currently takes. Other initiatives include electrifying the line between Sheffield and Leeds, and Sheffield and Manchester. This money will also help build a new mainline station at Rotherham.

£2bn will go towards a new Bradford rail station and line connection. This will enable a 30-minute journey between Bradford and Manchester, via Huddersfield, according to the policy paper.

Road infrastructure will get substantial investment. Nearly £3.3bn will be set aside for fixing potholes. Network North will also seek to improve the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham. The North East will get funding to dual the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham as well. In terms of smaller roads, £460m is to go towards delivering 21 road projects. The government lists a few highlights: A582 South Ribble Distributor; Kendal Northern Access Route; Wigan East-West Route; Shipley Eastern Bypass; and the Blyth Relief Road.

More than £700m will go towards bus service improvements. These could include “new bus services to Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital; doubling the service between Northwich and Chester; and more buses to industrial estates and business parks,” according to the policy paper.

City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlements will be topped up. Liverpool City Region will receive an additional £600m, bringing the amount it received from the second CRSTS budget to nearly £1bn. Greater Manchester is set to get £1.5bn from the second CRSTS.

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If Labour want to be seen to be pro HS2 they need to announce they will CPO any sold-off land back at the price it was sold.


Sunak now has a history of broken transport promises, apart from the metrolink to Manchester Airport which already exists, little of this will get delivered by him or his Government.

By Monty

Great of Sunak to announce an already existing tram link to Manchester Airport, he’ll be announcing a tower for Blackpool next.

By Anonymous

I am assuming that the Liverpool Manchester link is a chunk of HS2 Manchester to SJ 74044 85000 via Manchester Airport. Then the route to Liverpool via Warrington Bank QuayLow Level. This was of course very badly defined whatcame after Bank Quay, was it GC Gauge. Did GC end at Ditton? Was the current slow freight line to be repurposed to Edge Hill? The extension to Lime Street was to be built mostly on existing railway land, where is the non-railway line needed? How many platforms and how long?
At the Manchester End will it still be GC Guage? They seem to be putting as many obstacles in the way to stop resumption at a letter date, will this include sabotage of the Manchester end?
I cannot see a single thing happening on the ground until the Tories have been kicked out so the questions are somewhat moot but I’m sure if they can find a way to put a spanner in the works they will.
Under Beeching the Southport to Crossens line closed in September 64, and within a week demolition of the embankments started. The Tories lost a general election in October 64, Labour stopped the Beechine cuts but deemed it too late to save this line. It was the only electrified line closed under Beeching.


What a load of utter nonsense. Half the stuff is in the south and there will be a cost not a benefit to cancelling HS2 to Manchester because the other options to increase capacity on the West Coast Mainline cost more money. Jam tomorrow eh?

By Dr B

I thought that HS3 was linking Warrington via Manchester and Manchester Airport to Marsden, the little town near Huddersfield? I have never heard of this Liverpool/Manchester line. A line between Liverpool and Manchester, via Warrington and both airports is what is needed. That would create an economic powerhouse to rival London. It is basically the old South Lancashire megalopolis area, which counterbalanced London, way into the 1960s. I doubt this could be done for 12 billion pounds.

By Elephant

For someone who has no election mandate to cancel something that affects such a big part of the population is utterly undemocratic.

I think the Liverpool to Hull route should be looked at by all the Northern Councils and Manchester’s idea to keep the new station underground (only just rejected by the government( should be Brough back to live too.

By Another Manc

HAHAHAHA. Sunak promises… Let me stop you there. His word is without weight. He is weak. He doesn’t plan. He cannot be trusted. His government is without sense and without morality. The North will get done over again. And again, And again.

By Unlevelled for balance

Well then Elephant you have never heard of “The Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands” then.


Pretty much everything here was promised before but in addition to HS2. Now we don’t get HS2, but nothing else extra either. Well, the 50p savings on bus for 12 months was new… but hey, what an amazing compromise


“The government also promises to extend the Metrolink to Manchester Airport – an interesting premise as the Metrolink’s airport extension completed in 2014.”

That made me laugh, well played!

By JohnMac

    In all fairness, have since learned that the govt meant they would extend the tram to Terminal 2. You would think they would clarify that early doors, but oh well. I’ve updated the story to include that new info. – Julia

    By Julia Hatmaker

How many times has Leeds metro tram been announced, or A1 dualling in Northumberland or Simister Island etc etc etc.
Interesting that Tavistock station (funded by s106 contributions incidentally) is part of Network North.
It would all be hilarious if it wasn’t so exasperating and sad.

By Ava Ava Ava

The money would be better spent providing trams and other public transport to the airport 24/7 rather than extending the tram to T2. Trying to get to or from the airport between 01:00 and 05:00 without it taking hours is laughable for the biggest regional international airport.

By Mikey

According to The Times, the bulk of the £36 billion will not be available until 2029 – another six years and two general elections later !!

By Roger Jones

Just look at the map in the document. As well as labelling as Manchester what I think is probably Preston, they have obliterated the River Dee and also seem to have created a new line from Chester to Stafford. As for the N Wales electrification, this was ‘imminent’ 40 years ago and still they do not know what to do about Hoole Bridge in Chester. This is just an attempt to ramp up the opposition – there is no real ambition or intent to deliver even if given the chance.

By Anonymous

We need HS3. Liverpool to Hull

By Anon

I hardly think Metrolink to Terminal 2 ,is a priority, when Wigan, Bolton, and Stockport, still do not have one station between them. A circle line linking Bury, Rochdale and Oldham is far more important than wasting money on this.

By Elephant

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