Budget 2015: Green light for HS3 expected


Chancellor George Osborne is widely expected to move the 'Northern Powerhouse’ plan a step closer to reality in his Budget today.

Reports suggest he will officially endorse HS3 today, one of the centrepieces of the proposals to vastly improve transport infrastructure in the North to produce a network of interconnected cities capable of matching London.

First outlined by the chancellor last year, this high speed rail line would reduce journey times between Leeds and Manchester from 48 minutes to around half an hour and is backed up by a business case set to be released by the Department for Transport later this week, reports suggest.

According to the Independent newspaper, the DfT will also recommend that HS3 has extra phases to connect it to other cities such as Liverpool and Hull.

The full Northern Powerhouse plans are being supported and developed by Transport for the North, a new alliance of the region's key authorities set up by the Government in October 2014.

Led by the city regions including Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, together with Hull and the Humber, the group has worked with the DfT, Highways Agency and Network Rail to help draw up proposals to help inform the Treasury's investment programme.

In the One North report released last October, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield joined together to call for roughly £15bn of transport infrastructure improvements.

These included a new tunnelled trans-Pennine rail route at 125mph, a fast and frequent intercity rail network including a faster link to Newcastle and Manchester airports and improvements to rail capacity across the Pennines.

Other Budget investment plans could include a £97m downpayment for a new station at Brent Cross - a major redevelopment area highlighted in  National Infrastrstructure Plan - according to the Evening Standard.

The move would help facilitate a major house building project in the area as the Government seeks to show voters it is tackling the housing shortage in the capital. 

Despite promises of no 'giveaways and no gimmicks' from the chancellor, the Budget could be boosted by a £10bn windfall through the Office of Budget Responsibility raising growth forecasts for this year and next.

Increasing 2015 growth forecasts from 2.4% to 2.7% and 2016 forecasts from 2.2% to 2.5% will give the chancellor billions of pounds of extra room to work with as he tries to meet commitments on clearing the deficit while financing tax cuts and infrastructure improvements.

Better growth has been boosted by lower oil prices, which have halved since last June.

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