IMPROVING journey times between Leeds and Manchester is the key to unlocking the North’s economic potential, according to a new report.
The report recommends fasttracking plans for trans-Pennine high speed rail services dubbed HS3.
It says existing plans to cut rail journey times between the two cities to 40 minutes should go-ahead now alongside longer term measures to reduce that further to 30.
The National Infrastructure Commission, set up by Chancellor George Osborne, calls for the acceleration of improvements to the M62 and for plans to be drawn up for the upgrade of the M1 between Leeds and Sheffield.
Former Transport Secretary Lord Andrew Adonis, who chairs the Commission, said: “A better connected north will be better for jobs, better for families and better for Britain.
“The work should begin as quickly as possible.”
Following the report, Mr Osborne will promise £60 million to develop the plans for HS3 when he sets out his latest Budget tomorrow.
And he will pledge a further £161 million for Highways England to speed up improvements along the M62.
He said: “Now is the time us to make the bold decisions and the big investments that will help us to lead the world in infrastructure, and create jobs, push up living standards and boost our productivity for the next generation.
“That’s what my Budget this week sets out to do.”
Mr Osborne has said he wants to create a “northern powerhouse” by improving links between the North’s major towns and cities.
But he has faced growing criticism that there is too much focus on long term planning rather than delivering upgrades.
Mike Gordon, CEO, Callcredit Information Group said: “One of the biggest barriers holding back economic development in the North is transport infrastructure,” says Mike Gordon, CEO, Callcredit Information Group. “We need to invest in a better airport and we need to invest in trans-Pennine rail and road routes. It’s easier to get from London to Leeds than it is from Manchester to Leeds. We welcome government investment in improved transport links. Without this, the development of the Northern Powerhouse will be fiction rather than reality.”