Green light for HS3 and Crossrail 2

TOMORROW's budget will include funding for two major railway projects, the Treasury said today.

One is the start of investigatory work on building HS3, an east-west railway across the north of England, with the first section running under the Pennines to provide a faster railway between Leeds and Manchester. Ultimately, the travel time could come down to 30 minutes. The scheme is expected to include a combination of new build and upgrades of existing railways, and eventually extend right across the north from Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east.

The second rail development is formal recognition by the Government of the need for Crossrail 2, which will run across London on a north-east to south-west alignment, potentially connecting towns such as Cheshunt and Broxbourne with Woking and Guildford. Such a line would provide much-needed relief for London Waterloo station, which is the busiest in the country.

Although detailed figures will only be announced tomorrow, it is known that an initial £300 million will be allocated to developing HS3, as well as a proposed road tunnel under the Pennines and other highway improvements, while Crossrail 2 will receive an initial grant of £80 million. Transport for London will be asked to find match-funding of the same amount, with the aim of introducing a Bill to authorise the project in this Parliament.

The proposals are in line with a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission, whose chairman Lord Adonis said that Leeds and Manchester have the worst connections between them for two cities of comparable size anywhere in Europe. There are also plans to build 30,000 new homes on brownfield sites around the country, aided by a new fund worth £1.2 billion.

Chancellor George Osborne said: “With the difficulties we see in the global economy, we’ve got to make Britain fit for the future.

“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.”

“We set up the National Infrastructure Commission to think for the long term, plan for the future and help us lead the world.

“I want to thank Lord Adonis and the National Infrastructure Commission for their excellent work in setting out the long term priorities for London and the Northern Powerhouse, which I am determined to deliver.”

The transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “We know that good transport doesn’t just help get people around, it helps them get on. The National Infrastructure Commission has rightly identified these projects as transformational schemes that have the potential to further strengthen our economy. This is a major step forward for the Northern Powerhouse and Londoners alike.”

The Campaign for Better Transport welcomed the Chancellor's commitments to new rail schemes, and to focusing housing development around railway stations, but said that these needed to be linked with local transport improvements. It also criticised the funding for the Trans-Pennine Road Tunnel.

CBT chief executive Stephen Joseph said: "The commitment to invest in new rail projects is good news, especially for the North of England where rail networks have been starved of investment for decades. Putting housing development around rail stations is also a good plan. However, it's a shame the Chancellor is still supporting the damaging Trans-Pennine road tunnel proposal. This scheme would just increase pollution and road congestion in the cities and damage the Peak District - the money would be much better spent on improving local transport like supported bus services and road repairs to complement the welcome investments being put into rail infrastructure.

"The Government must ensure that plans for HS3 include sustainable local public transport connections from the outset. This will ensure passengers and taxpayers get the best value out of the scheme, and avoid the situation with HS2 whereby a lack of attention to how the project fits in with the wider transport network is leading to concerns that it won't tackle transport problems or help our environment."

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