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A high-speed rail link between Manchester, Bradford and Leeds could boost the regional economy by £22 billion by 2060, according to research by engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald.
The East-West rail link across the North, sometimes referred to as HS3 or Northern Powerhouse Rail, has been proposed for improving journey times and connectivity between cities in the North of England, and the latest figures from Mott MacDonald have raised estimates of its economic boost to the region by nearly £8 billion for just the Manchester to Leeds stretch alone.
The engineering consultancy suggests that improved rail links could increase productivity in the region by 6% (equivalent to £16.5 billion), raise the employment rate by 1.5% (equivalent to £5.5 billion) and see an 8% boost to the region’s gross value added (GVA, a measure of total economic output) over 10 years.
The East-West high-speed rail link was first suggested by the then-Chancellor George Osborne in 2014 as part of the Northern Powerhouse vision to rebalance the UK economy: while the North’s combined city-regions have a greater population than the capital, they generate less than half the economic output.
While government has continued to state its commitment to the rail link, the Integrated Rail Plan which sets out the Department for Transport’s priorities for investment in rail infrastructure, remains unreleased over 10 months after its planned publication date.
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), said:
“The North is still waiting for the high-speed rail we were promised. Building Northern Powerhouse Rail across the Pennines in full through Bradford would be transformative for our region, attracting investment and creating jobs and opportunities for local people.
“Uncertainty over rail investment, in particular the Eastern Leg of HS2, is doing huge damage to our economy. We need to start building from the North down from Leeds to reach Sheffield to unlock connectivity benefits sooner.
“This is vital to releasing much-needed capacity on the rail line, improving local connections and allowing more goods to be transported by freight instead of heavily-polluting HGV lorries.
“Levelling up cannot and will not happen without the full delivery of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail together.”
Cathy Travers, Managing Director, UK and Europe, Mott MacDonald, said:
‘’Many of us who live and work in the North of England understand the untapped potential that we have across the region. We know that we need true connectivity to unleash that potential and enhance peoples’ opportunities and drive better social outcomes.
“Northern Powerhouse Rail is a catalyst for this change and we need it urgently. In this report we have applied Mott MacDonald’s leading expertise in economic analysis and our experience of infrastructure investment to show the full economic benefit of delivering a new rail link between Leeds, Bradford and Manchester as the first step in kickstarting a northern renaissance. I believe our paper makes a compelling case for Government backing for Northern Powerhouse Rail in the forthcoming Integrated Rail Plan.”
Image: Preferred route map for high-speed rail connections in the North, put forward by Transport for the North.