PLANS for an underground, 300mph railway that could link Leeds and Manchester in just nine minutes have been handed to transport officials.
The London-based consortium behind the proposal says the line could also bring a rail service to Leeds Bradford Airport for the first time.
Direct City Networks (DCN) says it has drawn up plans for a line under the Pennines on which trains would hover above the track, with electrically charged magnets propelling them forwards at more than 100mph faster than the government’s proposal for an “HS3” line connecting the east and west coasts.
It currently takes more than three hours to travel from Liverpool to Hull by train, an hour longer than the journey from London to Paris by Eurostar.
Magnetic levitation, or maglev, is a system used in Japan, China and South Korea. Shanghai’s 18-mile maglev system, which connects its airport to the outskirts of the city, is the world’s fastest commercial train service, capable of 311mph with acceleration to more than 200mph taking just two minutes. The system opened in 2004 at a cost of around £1bn but has yet to turn a profit.
DCN claims the line could grow the Leeds and Manchester economies by £1.3bn a year and create 48,000 jobs.
Daragh Coleman of DCN told the YEP that the line would be “100 per cent underground” and could eventually connect all the region’s airports.
He said that given government co-operation, the service could be operational within eight years and would deliver journey times of nine minutes between Leeds and Manchester, 13 minutes between Leeds and Hull, and 29 minutes between Hull and Liverpool.
Mr Coleman said: “We believe it could be 75 per cent privately funded, 25 per cent government funded.”
He said that with no need to buy land, the scheme could be delivered for half the price per mile of above-ground rail schemes.
“The Pennines are a challenge for tunnel boring machines, but there are machines that can get through four miles per year and if you use ten you would have 40 miles of tunnels,” he added.
Mr Coleman said the line was an alternative to the HS3 route, for which £60m development funding was earmarked in last year’s budget, but would sit alongside the existing TransPennine Express route, which would continue to service intermediate stations, as well as freight.
Transport for the North confirmed it had seen the proposals but said they needed “more work” before they could be considered in detail.
A spokesman said: “TfN have been provided with information by DCN regarding a proposal to initially link Manchester and Leeds with a high speed ‘maglev’ connection, with the possibility of this being extended to Liverpool and Hull.
“We have responded to DCN highlighting several areas where we think substantive additional development work would be needed before any proposal could be given more detailed consideration.”
The organisation said its current priorities were the preparation of “a long-term strategic transport plan for the north” and development of the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals, aimed at “offering fast, frequent and reliable transport around the North”.