hs2 train

George Osborne calls for HS3 in the North of England to boost Northern Powerhouse

High-speed rail links should be built across the north of England, according to former chancellor George Osborne, in order to prop up the “Northern Powerhouse”.

The rail network would connect Liverpool to Hull and must be planned before the government presses ahead with HS2, he said.

So far, more than 70,000 people have signed a petition demanding more investment in transport outside of London and the South East.

Earlier this year, it emerged that more than half of England’s annual £32.7bn transport budget is spent in London.

It is estimated that investment in the North, including HS3, could create up to 850,000 jobs and generate £97bn for the economy.

Osborne, chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said the body wanted a government commitment to build links across the North, starting with a line across the Pennines.

Writing in the Financial Times, Osborne said: “The Northern Powerhouse Rail fits with Mrs May’s stated objective of building an economy that works for everyone.

“Far be it from me to offer advice to the Prime Minister on how to relaunch her premiership this autumn, but making this big commitment to the north at the Conservative conference in Manchester would not be a bad place to start.”

He wrote: “Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3, must be included in the next stage of the Government’s high-speed network.

“Specifically, ministers should include the planning for the future connections when they set out the design for Phase 2b of HS2 later this year, remodelling four junctions to ensure they are complementary with the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals, start the detailed planning work on the line itself and allocate a long-term capital budget.”

Osborne said plans for HS3 “will not be cheap”, with some estimates for the Pennine construction reaching £7bn, but he added: “This new railway would transform the northern economy.”

Osborne’s comments come as 50 business and civic leaders from across the north of England are to hand a letter to the government on Tuesday demanding an increase in transport spending.

Among the signatories are Drax Power chief executive Andy Koss, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce chief executive Clive Memmott and York College principal Alison Birkinshaw.

A section of the letter published in the Yorkshire Post reads: “Connecting our great cities of the north with a world-class, higher-capacity rail network is not only fundamental to the success of the Northern Powerhouse, it is fundamental to the success of the entire country.

“We are calling on you to back this success and back NPR.”

An independent study by think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North in February found that £1,943 is spent per head in London on current or planned transport infrastructure projects, compared to an average of just £427 in the North.

The report’s author Grace Blakeley said at the time: “It currently takes longer to travel by train from Liverpool to Hull than from London to Paris.

“Building better links between the North’s cities will boost the nation’s economy, driving up productivity.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling angered politicians in the north last month by announcing government support for a £30bn Crossrail 2 scheme for London, days after axing or downgrading rail projects in Wales, the Midlands and the north. 

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