The Government has given the green light to an HS3 rail line between Manchester and Leeds, is finding money for a new four-lane M62 and is ‘developing the case’ for a road tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield.
The £300 million of measures were announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget and are part of the Government’s plans to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
High Speed 3 (HS3) is the name given to a high speed link between Leeds and Manchester. Most of the plan involves upgrading or building stretches of new railway alongside the existing track rather than pushing ahead with an entirely new build.
The blueprint for HS3 will be drawn up by next year. Authors of a National Infrastructure Commission report commissioned for Osborne admitted it was more about generally improving existing routes and “should be conceived as a high capacity rail network, rather than a single piece of entirely new infrastructure”.
The main improvement has already been announced and is already underway: the electrification of the York to Manchester railway line.
It was briefly cancelled by the Government after the 2015 general election, only to be restarted months later following an outcry from northern business and politicians.
Osborne has committed £60 million to building a plan for HS3, which will aim at some point after 2022 to reduce the journey time between Leeds and Manchester beyond the current target of 40 minutes.
The headline target is to reduce journey times to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, the M62, which runs between Hull in the East and Liverpool in the West, will be be widened to four lanes in each direction.
The A66 and A69 across the northern Pennines will be widened, too, to help improve transport links between the North’s major cities.
And an initial study into the building of a tunnel under the Peak District in northern England was also announced by Osborne.
The study is set to cost £75 million and will investigate the possibility of an 18-mile long tunnel connecting Manchester and Sheffield, in order to draw traffic away from the already crowded Peak District National Park.
If approved and built, this would be one of the longest road tunnels in the world.
Osborne said: “I said we would build the Northern Powerhouse. We’ve put in place the mayors.
“We’re building the roads, we’re laying the track. We’re making the Northern Powerhouse a reality and rebalancing our country.”