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Leeds-Manchester high speed rail plans set out

George Osborne

George Osborne

IT is time to consider building a high speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester to help turn the cities of the North into an economic powerhouse, George Osborne will say today.

He will use a speech in Manchester to argue that the North’s cities can only be successful if it is much easier to travel between them.

He will say: “Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds. Based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure.

“A third high speed railway for Britain.”

Business leaders have long argued that better east-west transport links are one of the keys to transforming the North and creating a UK economy that is less dominated by the South East.

Indeed, some in the region have argued that transpennine transport investment would offer better value for money than the proposed high speed two (HS2) rail link from London to Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.

The idea of a high speed rail line will be put forward by the Chancellor as he sets out a wider vision of creating a “northern powerhouse”, describing an economy dominated by London as “not good for our country”.

His speech will be seen as his response to critics who have suggested the Coalition’s commitment to rebalancing the economy away from the South-East has waned as the recovery has taken hold.

And with less than a year to go to the General Election, it will be seen as an effort to shore up Conservative support in a string of marginal seats along the M62 corridor.

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