David Cameron and George Osborne will today throw their weight behind a third high-speed rail network, HS3, to connect northern cities and towns and grow the HS2 project into a bigger transport shake-up for the UK.
Under new plans, which are in their early stages, the HS3 link would make it quicker to travel between Leeds and Manchester, with possible extensions to Liverpool and Hull also on the cards.
A new northern transport body, called Transport for the North, will be announced by the Prime Minister and the chancellor on a visit to Leeds today, made up of five cities: Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle. An interim report into the options for HS3, compiled by the government and Transport for the North, will be published next March.
The recommendation is being made by the chair of the HS2 project, Sir David Higgins, in his new report on the HS2 rail link, published today. Higgins calls for HS3 in order to help northern towns and cities benefit from HS2, which critics have suggested will mainly reward London with faster links to hub cities in the north of the country.
Under the plans, journey times between Leeds and Manchester could be cut in half, with other routes, including York to Birmingham and Leeds to Sheffield Meadowhall, also benefiting from the plans.
“Reducing the journey times between and within our cities isn’t just desirable for both passengers and freight. It is a strategic necessity,” Higgins said ahead of the report launch today, which aims to extend HS2 and boost connectivity between the east and west of the UK.
Both the chancellor and the Prime Minister also welcomed the report, while chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander added that options for how the links could be extended to Scotland would make up an essential part of any future plan.
He also called for tight control over costs for both projects.