Chancellor George Osborne’s plan for a High Speed 3 rail link between Manchester and Leeds in the north of the country has been dubbed a “costly vanity project” by a leading economic think tank.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) yesterday accused the chancellor of “concocting” a headline-grabbing plan ahead of the election in 2015, which would make little difference to the economic prospects of northern towns.
“The relatively short distances between northern cities mean that high-speed rail is an expensive and inefficient way of linking them together,” head of transport at the IEA Dr Richard Wellings said.
“Not content with wasting tens of billions on the loss-making HS2 scheme, George Osborne is now threatening to compound the error by forcing taxpayers to fund HS3,” he added.
Osborne floated the idea of a third high-speed railway for the UK at a speech yesterday. The plan is understood to be in the very early stages, with the Treasury having only told the Department for Transport about the idea at the end of last week.
“I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds. Based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure.,” Osborne said. The scheme would form part of the chancellor’s plan to build a northern powerhouse of connected cities, underpinned by greater investment in infrastructure over the coming years.