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Thursday 17 March 2016

Council Leader welcomes Chancellor’s backing for high-speed rail


The Leader of Cheshire East Council has warmly welcomed the Chancellor’s backing for a high-speed rail line between Manchester and Leeds to boost connectivity and the economy of the North.

The HS3 rail link has been described as a key part of the UK's largest investment in rail infrastructure since the Victorian era – and builds on the investment planned in HS2 to Crewe.

George Osborne today unveiled a £300m Budget package to boost transport links in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a move he has said would help create a ‘northern global powerhouse’.

Mr Osborne committed the Government to taking forward HS3, with £60m to cut journey times to 30 minutes from their current 49. A full blueprint for HS3 will be drawn up by next year.

He also announced £75m to develop plans for a trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester and explore options for improvements to the M60 ring-road around Manchester, as well as the A66 and A69 coast-to-coast trunk roads further north.

Highways England is to be given £161m to accelerate upgrades to the M62 Liverpool-Hull motorway.

Councillor Rachel Bailey, Leader of Cheshire East Council, which has pushed hard for the creation of a strategic HS2 transport hub at Crewe, said: “This announcement is fantastic news for the whole region and I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s support for greater high-speed rail connectivity in the North of England.

“This is the right strategic solution, not just for the North West and the wider North but the country as a whole. This is a good decision and will help unlock the potential of high-speed rail to rebalance our country’s economy.

“The benefits HS3, HS2 and a strategic transport hub at Crewe will bring will be absolutely transformational for the local, regional and national economy and great news for jobs, business and growth in Cheshire East and the wider region.

“It provides the opportunity to link the strategic HS2 hub at Crewe directly into the Northern Powerhouse, including Leeds and beyond.”

Last November, the Government announced it is committed to building HS2 high-speed rail via Crewe and will invest £5bn to help bring the project online six years early by 2027.

An HS2 superhub at Crewe would help deliver more than 120,000 new jobs and more than 100,000 new homes across the Northern Gateway partnership by 2040. It is expected to bring £10bn of GVA a year to the Northern Gateway area.

Because of this, the Council backed the creation of Crewe Engineering and Design UTC, which is due to open its doors to students this September. This will boost education and training in the area and broaden and raise the academic and vocational skills of the region’s young people, including the automotive and rail sectors.

The mid-Cheshire towns, including Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich, will see significant economic gains from improved connectivity.

HS2 will not only create better connectivity but also free up capacity on the West Coast Main Line for both passengers and growth in rail freight movements.

Last June (2015), the Transport Secretary called for HS2 to be ‘fast tracked’ and indicated again that Crewe could become the first northern hub for HS2 before the 225mph service continues to Manchester.

Previously, in October 2014, Sir David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd, announced Crewe as the preferred location for a North West Gateway ‘superhub’ north of Birmingham, which can be connected into the Northern Powerhouse.

The Council is working with Department for Transport and Network Rail to finalise the location of the new HS2 hub station at Crewe that would deliver both the needs of the railway and secure the levels of economic transformation to the Northern Gateway.

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