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London business body supports a 'Crossrail for the North', and Manchester repays the compliment

Patrick McDonnell
14 September 2017

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called on the government to seriously explore the construction of a trans-Pennine rail line in the North of England.

LCCI said that it is in the best interests of the whole UK if strategic transport infrastructure is not concentrated mainly in the southeast area.

San McKee, policy director of LCCI, said: “London is heading towards megacity status with 10m people by 2030 and, while we seek the right infrastructure here, it is important that the rest of the country continues to grow as well. At present, cross-country travelling between the great northern cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield is a tortuous, time consuming experience. That is not good for business or Britain plc. Those city areas have a collective population of 9m, similar to London's current population.”

McKee said LCCI endorses calls for a ‘Crossrail of the North’. “It is interesting to note that the distance between Leeds and Liverpool is roughly the same as the whole length of London Underground's Central Line, yet that northern journey can sometimes nearly take double the time.”

Expertise from the London rail projects could be harnessed for the cross-Pennine project, McKee suggested. “The proposed cross-Pennine plans involve tunnelling,” he said. “The skills and experience from the new Elizabeth Line/Crossrail project in London could be put to good use to deliver practical connectivity.

“We are clear we want Crossrail Two but we also need to consider a Crossrail for the North. As the UK faces into a post Brexit future, our economy will be much stronger if we create opportunities for jobs and future growth beyond the capital. London's ‘Crossrail 2’ and a ‘Crossrail North’ could be given the green light to proceed together, helping create the environment to compete and seize new economic opportunities.”

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has responded positively to the LCCI’s backing for Crossrail North, by expressing its reciprocal support for a Crossrail 2 project, classing it as an “infrastructure scheme of critical national importance”.

The Greater Manchester Chamber said it supports infrastructure investment and sees both schemes as being of equal necessity for the future growth of the UK economy.

Chris Fletcher, marketing and campaigns director at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “As many people still seem intent on looking at this as a parochial north versus south issue both ourselves and our colleagues in London see this rightly in terms of identifying what the UK actually needs as a whole both now and in the future.

“Investment has centred on the capital – it is the economic engine of the UK – but what we need now is recognition that other areas have a part in supporting that which is why we are calling for Crossrail North and Crossrail 2 to get the go ahead and why the support from London Chamber is a welcome and important voice in this debate.

“The tactics and strategy of calling for more investment is correct and too often in the UK the momentum required to maximise investment has stalled. Now is exactly the right time to call for Crossrail 2, not wait until Crossrail has opened and reaches capacity.

“Coming off the back of Crossrail and the start of HS2 the UK is poised to get its rail infrastructure fit for purpose. These schemes and others will form the basis of the UK’s network for years to come and many want to hear, with guarantees, from government, that these schemes will be proceeding - not left in doubt and hoping that these projects may one day be considered and certainly not one taking precedence above others.”

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