HS3: Do we need another high-speed rail link?

How the proposed HS3 link between Manchester and Leeds might boost the northern economy

HS2 high-speed rail
(Image credit: DfT)

George Osborne will today outline a plan to boost the economy of the north of England and reduce the country's economic reliance on London with a new high-speed rail link connecting Manchester and Leeds.

The so-called HS3 project would be based on the existing line that runs between the two cities, but new tunnels and other infrastructure would increase the speed at which trains could travel, The Independent reports.

However, like HS2, the proposed high-speed line linking London, Birmingham and Manchester, the latest proposal looks likely to be controversial.

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Is a faster line between Manchester and Leeds necessary?

According to official data, rail travel between northern cities can be time-consuming. The 284 miles from London to Paris can be covered in less time that the journey, half that distance, between Liverpool and Hull, The Times reports. Similarly, getting from London to Reading takes about 27 minutes, while a trip from Leeds to Manchester, about the same distance, takes almost twice as long.

Osborne argues that upgrading rail links will turn northern cities into an economic powerhouse. "We need to think big," he will say in his speech today. "We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west – to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city".

How much will it cost?

Before the HS3 can begin, there is still the £50bn HS2 project to finish.

In its initial stage, HS2 aims to provide 225mph trains from London to Birmingham, before creating a "Y-shaped network" that runs to Manchester and Leeds by 2032/33.

After that, work can begin on HS3 linking Leeds and Manchester. Current estimates suggest that it may cost £21bn to complete, Sky News reports.

The Coalition says that at least 60,000 jobs would be created in "the most important investment in the north for a century".

What is driving the plan?

The BBC's political correspondent Vicki Young says that the move may be a political move by Conservatives to stem declining support in the North.

Labour's shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said regional growth divides have "widened markedly since 2010", when the Coalition took office.

The Times agrees, noting that the proposed line is tantamount to a "partial admission that the government has failed to deal with Britain’s dependence on the capital's financial might".

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