Prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne were in Manchester today to promote the government’s Northern Powerhouse plans – stressing that transport is the core plank in helping the region work as a connected whole.
The programme for the North West of England is centred on major transport projects including HS2, a possible HS3 link connecting East to West from Liverpool to Manchester, to Leeds and Hull and a road tunnel under the Pennines.
Mr Osborne confirmed the chairman of the Highways Agency, Colin Matthews, has now been asked to look at the technical feasibility of building a road tunnel, or tunnels, across the Pennines and Peak District.
Initial figures released by the Government today suggest a tunnel could cut journey times across the Pennines by up to 30 minutes.
In a pre-election speech designed to woo northern voters, Mr Osborne boasted of planning to deliver ‘the largest, most sustained, investment in transport infrastructure the North West has ever seen’ stating that with better transport connections the northern cities can rival any global heavyweight.
Government officials suggest the plans could deliver an £18bn real terms increase in the size of the North West economy by 2030, by raising the long-term growth rate of the North West to the same as the forecast for overall UK growth
He also went on to list specific transport projects earmarked for the region including the now agreed Metrolink to Trafford, new commitments to road links to the Port of Liverpool and Ellesmere Port and new train services from Carlisle to Lancaster.
The prime minister said: ‘When it comes to the next generation – to Britain’s long-term future – few things are more important than rebalancing our economy. So we need a strong London, but we need a Northern Powerhouse too.’
The Conservative leaders also highlighted the recent Manchester deal to deliver an elected mayor for Greater Manchester in a recent for a major devolution package.
‘I commit again that the Prime Minister and I will honour that deal for an elected mayor, and deliver it in partnership with you over the next three years,’ Mr Osborne said adding that ‘when it comes to other places, let me say this, I’m not going to impose any deals, or mayors, on cities that don’t want them’.
Manchester voted no to an elected mayor in 2012.