George Osborne backs 'Crossrail of the North'

George Osborne

George Osborne

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George Osborne pledged his support today for a "Crossrail of the North" and new powers for big northern cities lagging behind London and the South.

The Chancellor described the GBP15 billion plans in the One North report as "affordable" as he welcomed the proposals.

The report, compiled by the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, has been described as a "Crossrail of the North" to improve transport links between the regions.

If adopted, the 15-year investment plan, which complements the HS2 proposals, could deliver benefits for the whole of the North of England including up to 150% additional capacity on roads and as much as 55% quicker journey times on a faster, more frequent interconnected rail network.

Cross-party support for the proposals was stressed today with the Tory Chancellor flanked by the Labour leaders of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds for the launch of the report in Manchester.

Mr Osborne said: "Of course GBP15 billion is a lot of money - it's about the size of the Crossrail project in London.

"It's a project over a number of years, out to 2030. We have got a GBP100 billion capital budget to the end of the decade.

"I think this kind of proposal is affordable."

Mr Osborne has said he wants to build a "northern powerhouse" around the major cities of the North, whose legacy of heavy industry has led to an economic performance lagging behind the rest of the UK.

The Chancellor also said that this autumn there will be new proposals on transferring more power and a bigger say over how money is spent, from Whitehall, to the cities and regions in a "new model of city governance".

He added: "I'm prepared to roll up my sleeves and get it done, so let's get on with it."

Mr Osborne said if the Government and the cities could get the economic performance of the North to match the rest of the UK, it would add billions to the wealth of the nation and "rebalance" the economy from an over-reliance on the City, London and the South East.

The One North plans also include increased road capacity for both freight and personal travel through extended motorways, improving links to ports and airports and fast and frequent intercity rail links, all interconnected with HS2, the super-fast North-South rail project from London.

All the leaders of the cities involved have welcomed the report, with further costings and proposals to be worked out before the plans go ahead.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "The current constraints on our transport networks, the product of years of neglect and under-investment, affect the competitiveness of the North. East-west journeys take almost twice as long as equivalent journeys in the South and our rail links are too slow and unco-ordinated. Our motorways are congested, and there is an over-reliance on the M62."

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "In the 19th century almost half of the world's trade moved through the port of Liverpool, but getting freight to and from the Liverpool city region is just as important today. The planned superport is going to increase volume by 70% in 2030, so we need better, faster connectivity - both east-west and through HS2."

Mr Anderson went on: "We want the capacity, the ability to ship that freight further north, east and across to Hull and the Humber.

"It's right that if we are seriously talking about rebalancing the economy, that we have to create better connectivity between our northern cities.

"It will not only help northern cities, it will help the UK economy."

Shadow Treasury minister Shabana Mahmood said: "We welcome this report and the city regions of the North of England working together to strategically plan to deliver the growth and jobs we need.

"But only Labour will properly back our city and county regions with ambitious plans to devolve more funding and economic power to them.

"George Osborne will be judged on his actions, not his words. He is failing to back the Heseltine report or Labour's plans to devolve billions of pounds of funding. Infrastructure output has fallen by over 12% since 2010. And the Chancellor has refused to back our proposal for an independent infrastructure commission to end the dither and delay on long-term decisions."

Comments (1)

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4:35pm Tue 5 Aug 14

Bill Bradbury says...

Talk is cheap but in this case not so cheap. Action speaks louder than words as we are still awaiting action to link the NW to the channel Tunnel when £billions was being spent in the SE and the "soft soap" was that we would benefit. That was over 20 years ago.
Is there an election on the horizon and if the Tories want to be re-elected they need a few NW seats?

I am all for the "plan" but they are empty words and "Flim-flam" the usual polition-speak. When it does happen I will show my backside in Woolies window but of course that has gone too and by then so will I.
Talk is cheap but in this case not so cheap. Action speaks louder than words as we are still awaiting action to link the NW to the channel Tunnel when £billions was being spent in the SE and the "soft soap" was that we would benefit. That was over 20 years ago. Is there an election on the horizon and if the Tories want to be re-elected they need a few NW seats? I am all for the "plan" but they are empty words and "Flim-flam" the usual polition-speak. When it does happen I will show my backside in Woolies window but of course that has gone too and by then so will I. Bill Bradbury
  • Score: 1

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