Transport for the North (TfN) and the government are publishing the first “Northern Transport Strategy” report today (20 March 2015).
Building on the concept of HS3, the report sets out a long term strategy to connect the cities of the north with a network of high quality rail connections. This “TransNorth” network – with sections capable of speeds up to 140 miles per hour – would link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull. With such a network journey times between:
- Liverpool and Manchester could be as low as 20 minutes,
- Manchester to Sheffield and Leeds could both be 30 minutes,
- Leeds to Hull could be 45 minutes, and
- Sheffield to Hull could be 50 minutes
Supporting studies by Network Rail set out for the first time the different options for creating such a network and include indicative costings. Options range from radically upgrading existing routes to building completely new lines. The government will now fund further development of the options identified, with road and rail plans now jointly commissioned by TfN and government.
Other measures set out include:
- The government will deliver HS2 in the north sooner by preparing a dedicated hybrid Bill to lay during the next Parliament. This is with a view to bringing HS2 to Crewe sooner than planned, subject to further analysis and final decisions on the preferred route. It will also look at the case for accelerating the construction of the route between Leeds and Sheffield, and allowing it to be used for fast regional train services,
- The government will take immediate action to simplify rail fares across the north, by streamlining the system of regulated fares. Work will also begin on developing contactless travel cards that can be used across northern cities as well as on providing simpler, more unified information for passengers,
Major improvements to the north’s road network will continue including:
- Expand the M62 to 4 lanes between Leeds and Manchester including “smart” motorway management,
- Upgrade the M6 to 4 lanes,
- Improve the A1 to provide continuous motorway standard between London and Newcastle,
- Widen the M1 to 4 lane running in Yorkshire and Humber.
As part of the “TransNorth”, work will begin on better connecting Manchester airport to neighbouring cities in order to boost international links. There will also be a review for regional airports affected by the recent devolution of air passenger duty.
The government and TfN will work together to produce a multi-modal freight and logistics strategy for the north, to help the private sector invest with confidence in ports and other freight centres.
TfN will expand its role to become a representative body for the whole of the north of England and it will be led by an independent chair. Government is making up to £6.4m to support TfN’s strategic network and rail options development and will in addition ensure Highways England is able to take forward its studies identified in report.