UK Government publishes plans for “Northern Powerhouse”

The UK Government has today published its Northern Transport Strategy report, which aims to improve transport links in northern England, shorten journey time and deliver part of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project sooner than planned.

It is part of the government’s long-term strategy to improve connections between the main conurbations in the north of England.

A blatant piece of post-Budget electioneering– Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef

The report states that journey times will be cut by upgraded road and rail links, and that the introduction of smart travel cards similar to London’s Oyster will simplify and cheapen fares. There are also plans to build a road tunnel under the Peak District in Derbyshire.      

The "TransNorth" network will be served by trains travelling of speeds of up to 140mph, linking northern hubs such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.

A map showing new and improved routes across the north and HS2 (

The cheapest upgrade to northern rail will cost £1bn and the whole package could reach £19bn. Options for rail projects include:

  • Cutting travel time between Liverpool and Manchester reduced to 20 minutes, at a cost of £4-7bn,
  • Travel from Manchester to Sheffield and Leeds could be cut to half an hour at a cost of £3-5bn,
  • Travel between Leeds and Hull could take 45 minutes at a cost of £5.5-9bn,
  • A new service between Leeds and Newcastle at a cost of £1-4bn.

There are also planned improvements to English motorways:

  • A planned expansion of the M62 to four lanes between Leeds and Manchester,
  • Improvements to the A1 to provide a continuous motorway-standard carriageway between London and Newcastle,
  • Plans to widen the M1 to four lanes in Yorkshire and Humberside,
  • Plans to make the M6 into a four-lane motorway.

The government also aims to deliver the HS2 project to Crewe sooner than planned. 

Artist’s depiction of an HS2 train

George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, said: "This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the north and we will work closely with [newly created agency] Transport for the North to help make it a reality. 

"Our ambitious plans for transport mean we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity." 

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said: "Modernising rail in the north and speeding up connections between cities will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the transport network they deserve." 

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, the trade union representing train drivers, has called the plans "fanciful" and a "blatant piece of post-Budget electioneering". 

Osborne announced his pre-election budget this week. The UK general election will take place on the 7 May 2015.

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