Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has called on the government to build a high-speed rail line across the Pennines between Liverpool and Hull. He swapped being an MP for being editor of London’s Evening Standard, but he made his plea in an opinion piece published in the Financial Times.
The trans-Pennine route would be an extension of the HS2 scheme, a new high-speed line that is intended to link London and Birmingham and which will have branches to Manchester and Leeds.
Osborne launched the concept of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ while he was Chancellor and has continued to champion the concept.Osborne wrote the FT piece in his role as chairman of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, whose first campaign involved asking the government to redesign the second phase of HS2. The partnership wants the government to commit to building high-speed rail links across the north from Liverpool to Hull, starting with the line across the Pennines.
“Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3, must be included in the next stage of the government’s high-speed network,” Osborne wrote in the FT. “Specifically, ministers should include the planning for the future connections when they set out the design for Phase 2b of HS2 later this year, remodelling four junctions to ensure they are complimentary with the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals, start the detailed planning work on the line itself and allocate a long-term capital budget.”
Osborne predicts that HS3 would transform the northern economy. He estimates it would bring 7m extra people and a trebling in the number of businesses within a 90-minute journey time of one of the northern cities.
Osborne conceded the project would be expensive – “I have seen estimates of about £7bn for the Pennine construction” – but suggested this level of investment would be spread over many years. He suggested that the transport budget is also set to accommodate both this and other key projects, such as London’s Crossrail 2.
Andy Burnham, Labour's Mayor of Greater Manchester, tweeted a link to Osborne's article, adding that the north of England “is getting organised”.
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