Multi-billion pound plans to 'revolutionise' north transport

Plans to overhaul transport in the North of England are being laid out by ministers, including rail schemes worth billions of pounds.

Chancellor George Osborne said the Northern Transport Strategy report will create a “northern powerhouse”, but the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said the package was “yet more pie-in-the-sky nonsense”.

The plans build on the concept of High Speed 3 (HS3) and could see trains travelling up to 140 miles an hour, almost halving the time it takes to travel by rail between some of the biggest cities in the North.

The proposal could reduce Liverpool to Manchester journey times to around 20 minutes, 30 minutes between Manchester and Leeds or Sheffield and 45 minutes from Leeds to Hull. The overall costs to improve road links and speed up train times between cities could cost as much as £46bn.

The report, published today by the Government and the newly formed Transport for the North (TfN), marks the most comprehensive plan ever outlined for northern England backed by both sides of the Coalition.

Mr Osborne said: “Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a northern powerhouse.”

“This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the north and we will work closely with Transport for the North to help make it a reality.

“From backing high speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the north, our ambitious plans for transport means we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity.”

Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, said: “I am extremely proud to be announcing this new strategy which will be transformative for the region. Modernising rail in the north and speeding up connections between cities will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the transport network they deserve.”

Other plans include developing new east-west road connections including a road tunnel under the Peak District and introducing Oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the North.

The Government has also said it will prepare a hybrid Bill, to be laid during the next Parliament, for phase two of HS2, as well as widening sections of the M1, M6 and M62.

There are also plans for better connections to Manchester Airport and improvements to the A1.

However, some of the road plans have previously been announced and Prime Minister David Cameron has also given the go-ahead for a high-speed HS3 rail link – in an attempt to rebalance the UK economically by giving the north more power away from London and the south east.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, confirmed that metropolitan cities in the north would be able to issue their own rail franchises in future.

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