Published: Thursday, 17th March 2016
Chancellor George Osborne this week committed £300m to kick-start work on major transport schemes in the capital and the North.
The investment is for specifically Crossrail 2 and rail and road links between Manchester and Leeds, which are expected to trigger significant urban development.
Support for the capital’s Crossrail 2 scheme is predicated on the development of a housing strategy which would involve some release of green belt land and the provision up to 200,000 new homes.
In the North the expectation is that the long term transformation of Manchester Piccadilly station should stimulate significant regeneration across 60-hectares of central Manchester.
Osborne’s commitment to significant transport infrastructure spending came in the wake of two reports from the National Infrastructure Commission
The first, published last week, urged backing for Crossrail 2, the proposed new north-east to south-west tunnelled rail line across the capital. The Commission insisted funding should be made available now to develop the scheme fully with the aim of submitting a hybrid bill by autumn 2019. This would enable Crossrail 2 to open in 2033.
The Commission called for a funding plan in which London contributed more than half the total for the scheme. Also recommended was a strategy to maximise private sector involvement in the development and funding of stations and their surrounding areas and the construction of at least 200,000 homes along the route. This could require the creation of one or more development corporations.
The second report, published on Tuesday, made the case for a higher speed, higher capacity and higher frequency rail network in the North from Liverpool in the west to Hull and Newcastle in the east. This would incorporate sections of the proposed HS2 project as well as upgraded lines and sections of new track where necessary. This is being called HS3.
The Commission said the development of this network should begin with the rail link between Manchester and Leeds, the two largest economies of the North. Phase one should reduce journey times from 49 to 40 minutes and increase capacity by 2022. Phase two could cut to just 30 minutes.
The Commission said an integrated plan covering both phases should be drawn up before the end of 2017. It added that route decisions on the northern sections of HS2 to be announced later this year should support enhanced high-speed connections within the North, including between Leeds-Sheffield, Liverpool-Manchester, and Sheffield-Newcastle.
The Commission argued that Highways England should accelerate capacity enhancements to the M62 between Liverpool and Manchester and between Manchester and Leeds. Also firmly on the agenda is the prospect of a new road link between Manchester and Sheffield involving a tunnel under the Peak District.