Just a few days after taking office, new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to fund a faster rail route between Leeds and Manchester, which he claimed would “turbo-charge” regional growth.
Speaking in front of Stephenson’s Rocket at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, Mr Johnson said: “I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse rail what we did with Crossrail in London.
“And today I am going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.”
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The current route suffers from chronic overcrowding at peak times, with trains on the 43-mile Leeds to Manchester via Diggle line taking nearly an hour.
Mr Johnson wants this cut to under 30 minutes with the new route, dubbed HS3.
Detailed plans for the proposed route will be published in the autumn after a review into the costs of HS2, which is rumoured to have risen by between £25-30billion, according to a leaked letter.
If that is correct, it puts HS2 costs to at least £80bn, well before any of the tunnelling has began, and throws a spotlight of uncertainty on the controversial project once again.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, who has been outspoken about the Conservative Party’s lack of investment in the north, welcomed the funding pledge.
He said: “Northern Powerhouse Rail is more than Manchester to Leeds. It is about connecting the whole north, and it needs to be a new line rather than an upgrade.”