The National Infrastructure Commission has published its third report, High Speed North. It looks at how improved rail and road links across the Pennines between Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester could shorten journey times and improve the economy.
This was backed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who will announce funding to progress the cross-Pennine schemes in his 16 March Budget.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair Councillor Peter Box said:
“I’m pleased that the Commission sees the economic benefits of connecting the cities of the north through improved rail and road links, and that it recognises the importance of Leeds City Region to the economy of the north, recommending that priority be given to connectivity with the Manchester City Region. The report also recognises the need to improve east-west road links, and the vital role of the M62 – as well as the need for a wider strategy, including investment in workforce skills, research and innovation.”
“Transport plays a major role in the economic prosperity of the north. Building HS3 across the Pennines, linked to HS2 when it arrives in Leeds and Manchester, will help turn our aspirations to improve the north’s economy into reality. To this end it is important that the construction of the link to HS2 from Leeds starts in Leeds, not in Birmingham.”
“But it is vital that the benefits from this improved connectivity are felt across the north of England. It’s not just the major inter-regional routes that need investment, we also need to see funding for improvements on key local routes as well.”
West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee Chair, Cllr Keith Wakefield said:
“Everyone agrees that better road and rail links between the our towns and cities are vital to the North achieving its massive economic potential so the Chancellor’s pre-budget announcement, which confirms and builds upon plans he unveiled in the Autumn statement, is welcome.
“However we need to see an ongoing government commitment to ensure these projects for the North don’t become stalled at the planning stage – we need to see them fully funded and delivered as soon as possible.
“It is also vital that in addition to these high profile schemes, the government invests in northern projects such as the electrification of the Calder Valley rail line linking Bradford, Halifax, Leeds and Manchester and the upgrade of the Leeds, Harrogate to York lines. It is also essential that we support the development of a skilled workforce, as well as research and innovation. I am pleased that these aspects were recognised by the National Infrastructure Commission.
“We also need to ensure that intermediate towns such as Huddersfield and Dewsbury will share the benefits from any new high-speed links across the Pennines.”