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New Liverpool-to-HS2 rail line mooted

Train

A new rail line may be needed to connect Liverpool to the £56bn High Speed 2 scheme, an influential report has found.

Transport for the North’s (TfN) Autumn Report said upgrading existing track was unlikely to create the connectivity needed.

The body – made up of various transport authorities and combined authorities – set out in the report its latest thinking on creating a Northern Powerhouse Rail network.

“Emerging findings from this work show that entirely new lines, or in some cases major bypasses and cutoffs, may be needed to deliver the connectivity vision in full, and we are developing these route options,” said the report.

“Between Liverpool and Manchester, there may be the potential to use the proposed HS2 infrastructure to cover approximately half the distance between the two cities.

“Our initial work indicates such an option would also require a new line from Liverpool to the proposed HS2 route, as we have found little or no scope to achieve our vision for journey times and frequencies through incremental upgrades to the existing rail routes.”

The study said that “very significant” sections of new line would be needed to connect Manchester with Leeds and Sheffield.

Elsewhere it said Newcastle and Hull could be better connected to the rest of the North by upgrade and electrification of existing lines and the use of faster trains. HS2 itself could speed the link between Leeds and Sheffield, said the report.

TfN has commissioned further work on rail connectivity and intends to have a clearer idea of costs and benefits of various options by next autumn.

On the roads, TfN said work on the potential for a Trans-Pennine Tunnel had so far suggested the project would be “technically and operationally feasible to construct”.

This would see a new highway connecting Manchester and Sheffield, involving at least one tunnel. “Work on the economic case for the scheme has commenced,” said the Autumn Report. A shortlist will be drawn up within the next 11 months.

Final reports on transport to the north and west of Manchester, and on the case for dualling either or both the A66 and A69, will be published by the end of next year.

TfN also said it would work with the Department for Transport to produce an implementation plan by Budget 2016 for the delivery of smart and integrated ticketing for local transport and rail services across the North.

“In that plan, we will aim to deliver early benefits to customers while also investigating ambitious ways of transforming the way people pay for their travel. An improvement we are working towards is to enable customers to buy rail season tickets on smart cards,” said the Autumn Report.

John Cridland, former director-general of employers’ body the CBI, was today named as chair of TfN.

He said: “There is much to do to improve transport capacity and links across the North, and we now have the opportunity to make this happen. I look forward to working with city leaders, minsters and all stakeholders across the North of England.”

TfN chief executive David Brown said: “John Cridland is an inspirational figure in the world of British business and we are delighted to welcome him to this role where he will play a leading part in driving forward TfN’s ambition to create a Northern Powerhouse through transformed connectivity.”

In the spending review this month, chancellor George Osborne pledged £50M funding this parliament for TfN. He also set aside £150M for delivery of smart ticketing across the region.

The government today confirmed that work on a section of the second phase of High Speed 2 would be completed six years earlier than planned. Osborne said the Birmingham-to-Crewe leg of the rapid rail link would open in 2027. This will slash the Manchester-to-London journey time by 40 minutes, according to the government.

“Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country,” said Osborne.

 

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