Major road improvements included in northern transport strategy

Major improvements to the road network – including expanding parts of the M62 and M6 to four lanes – have been unveiled by the government as part of its transport strategy for the north.

The government will also improve the A1 to provide continuous motorway standard between London and Newcastle and widen the M1 to four lane running in Yorkshire and Humber. It will also announce the go-ahead of the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Northern city leaders will also set out plans for a new ‘TransNorth’ rail system today (20 March 2015).

As part of building a Northern Powerhouse, the Chancellor established Transport for the North (TfN) to bring together northern transport authorities, and tasked it with working with government to create the first ever comprehensive transport strategy for the region, covering roads, rail, freight, airports and smart ticketing. TfN and the government are publishing the first northern transport strategy report today, following Network Rail work on rail improvement options.

In his Budget earlier this week the Chancellor announced that the government would publish a comprehensive transport strategy for the North.

The report sets out a long-term strategy to connect up the north, create a single economy and allow northern towns and cities to pool their strengths. Plans set out in the report include: slashing journey times between major northern cities with investment in high speed rail; developing new east-west road connections including a road tunnel under the peak district; and introducing Oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the North.

Chancellor George Osborne said: “Connecting up the great cities of the north is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse. This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the North and we will work closely with Transport for the North to help make it a reality.

“From backing high speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the north, our ambitious plans for transport means we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added: “I’m proud to be announcing this new strategy which will be transformative for the region. Modernising rail in the North and speeding up connections between cities will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the transport network they deserve.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “No government has given such attention to the infrastructure of our great northern cities and how to deliver a world-class, integrated transport network for the north.

“Creating a Northern Powerhouse of jobs, investment and prosperity, is a key objective of the Government’s long term economic plan. We are planning for transport and growth in a new joined-up way. Today we set out a comprehensive strategy for the northern economy which will help the north pool its strengths. Transport for the North gives the north a powerful new voice.”

Building on the concept of High Speed 3, the report sets out a long-term strategy to connect the great cities of the north with a network of high quality rail connections. This ‘TransNorth’ network – with sections capable of speeds up to 140mph – would link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull. With such a network journey times between Liverpool and Manchester could be as low as 20 minutes; Manchester to Sheffield and Leeds could both be 30 minutes; Leeds to Hull could be just 45, and Sheffield to Hull 50 minutes. Journey times from Manchester to Newcastle could be cut by 25%.

Other measures set out today include:

  • The government will deliver HS2 – Britain’s new north-south high speed railway – in the North sooner by preparing a dedicated hybrid Bill to lay during the next Parliament. This is with a view to bringing HS2 to Crewe sooner than planned, subject to further analysis and final decisions on preferred route. It will also look at the case for accelerating the construction of the route between Leeds and Sheffield, and allowing it to be used by for fast regional train services.
  • The government will take immediate action to simplify rail fares across the North, by streamlining the system of regulated fares. Regulated fares include most commuter fares and some off-peak fares and season tickets. Work will also begin on developing contactless travel cards that can be used across Northern cities as well as on providing simpler, more unified information for passengers, making it easier for them to plan and make their journeys.
  • Major improvements to the North’s road network will continue. The government is to expand the M62 to four lanes between Leeds and Manchester, upgrade the M6 to four lanes, improve the A1 to provide continuous motorway standard between London and Newcastle and widen the M1 to four lane running in Yorkshire and Humber.
  • As part of TransNorth, work will begin on better connecting Manchester airport to neighbouring cities in order to boost international links and make the north more globally competitive. There will also be a review for regional airports affected by the recent devolution of air passenger duty.
  • The government and TfN will work together to produce multi-modal freight and logistics strategy for the north, to help the private sector invest with confidence in ports and other freight centres.
  • Transport for the North will expand its role to become a representative body for the whole of the north of England and will be led by an independent chair. Government is making available up to £6.4m to support Transport for the North’s strategic work and rail option development and will in addition ensure Highways England is able to take forward its studies identified in the report. This will mean that in total up to £12.5m will be available to take forward development work.

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