Transport for the North (TfN) has unveiled plans to revolutionise transport across the north of England, with around £70bn to be invested in modernising and improving road and rail links.
The ambitious programme, which includes the proposal of a new train line connecting Bradford to Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and beyond, would mean that 1.3 million people in the north would be able to reach four cities in less than an hour, a move which is expected to boost the economy by as much as £100bn.
Improved networks would also mean that 39% of businesses would be within a 90-minute train journey of four or more major cities in the north.
On the new Northern Powerhouse Line – once described as HS3 – the journey between Liverpool and Manchester, which currently takes around 50 minutes by train, could be cut to just 20 minutes. The Leeds to Manchester train route (via Bradford) could be shortened to half an hour, from the current 49 minutes.
Road upgrades to transform connections between Manchester and Sheffield have also been proposed, including a partially tunnelled route along the A628 Woodhead Pass, which runs directly across the Peak District and is currently often subject to closures due to its exposed position. This investment would also lead to improvements to the nearby M60, M67 and M1.
TfN chairman John Cridland said: “Transport for the North’s vision is of a thriving north of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.
“This is an ambitious programme that will improve our roads and railways, and will also drive a sea change in skills development in the north and ensure we meet that historic gap in investment.”
The proposed new rail network would be fully integrated with HS2, which is due to have its first phase completed by 2026 and will improve connections between the north and the south of England.
Compared to the south, northern regions have had a lack of investment in transport infrastructure over the years, and the new focus is expected to provide a huge boost to businesses, attracting growing numbers of people who will now consider the region as a more desirable place to live and work.
A public consultation on the plan will end on 17 April, with a final version expected to be presented for ministerial consideration later this year.