INVESTING in rail services between Leeds and Manchester could add billions to the economy and should be a national priority, a new Government-backed report says today.
The Centre for Cities thinktank found that city centres are increasingly becoming the engines of the UK economy and transport investment should focus on improving their connections.
And it recommended Leeds and Manchester links should be prioritised because the two cities have some of the highest concentrations of highly skilled jobs in areas such as finance and law but also some of the poorest rail services.
Significantly, the report was commissioned by the Government to find out where improvement of services would have the biggest impact and has been published just weeks before Chancellor George Osborne delivers his annual Autumn Statement which he has already promised will have strengthening the North’s economy at its heart.
Mr Osborne has previously spoken about the importance of improving transport links to unlock the North’s economic potential and has floated the idea of a transpennine high speed rail link dubbed HS3.
Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones said: “The Manchester to Leeds route currently takes almost twice as long to travel as the longer distance between London and Milton Keynes.
“The capital’s rail connections to neighbouring cities have played an important part in building strong and successful economies across the South East, and the evidence strongly suggests that Manchester and Leeds would benefit enormously from quicker and more frequent connections.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The government is committed to improving transport infrastructure in the north of England.
“In the next few years we are investing over £600m in the Northern Hub and Transpennine electrification schemes which will greatly improve rail services east-west.”