The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has called on the government to “kick-start” the proposed HS3 high-speed rail network as a first step in improving transport in the North of England.
The NIC wants the HS3 project to focus at first on the route between Manchester and Leeds, as well as the redevelopment of the North’s “gateway” railway stations, such as Manchester Piccadilly.
Labour peer Lord Adonis, who chairs the NIC, said construction of such a significant project would inevitably take place in phases.
“Development should prioritise those links likeliest to provide the strongest benefits for the North,” he said.
And providing better links between Leeds and Manchester, which account for 46% of the population of the northern city regions and 50% of their combined economy, ought to be a priority, he added.
When complete the HS3 network would run from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle, with lines connecting other major cities.
Chancellor George Osborne was reportedly ready to grant £60m in funding in his budget statement tomorrow to developing HS3.
Phase one of the high speed link would by 2022 reduce journey times from Leeds to Manchester from 49 to 40 minutes and increase capacity.
Phase two could cut journey times to just 30 minutes. An integrated plan covering both phases should be drawn up before the end of 2017.
Lord Adonis also called for the line to be integrated with HS2.
He said the northern sections of the line, which will be announced later this year, should support enhanced high speed connections within the North.
The NIC said a long term regeneration of Manchester Piccadilly station, along with additional east-west platforms, would stimulate “significant regeneration across 140 acres in central Manchester”.
Additionally the NIC called for investment into improvements on the M62 between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, to be brought forwards.
Enhancements such as a four lane smart motorway, which uses variable speed limits and hard shoulders at certain key times, could cut journey times by up to 20%, increase capacity by up to a third on the motorway and reduce peak time congestion by 70%.
“If the North is to become a powerhouse it has to be better connected,” Lord Adonis said.
“Leeds and Manchester are just forty miles apart but there is no quick and easy way to travel between the two. In rush hour it can take more than two hours by car, by train it can be almost an hour.”
He added: “We must not wait decades for change – journey times should be cut to 40 minutes by 2022.”
Creating a smart motorway on the M62 between junctions 20–25 linking Leeds and Manchester would be the first time since 1971 that new road capacity has been created linking one side of the Pennines with the other, he said.