High speed rail essential, say transport leaders

Date published: 21 May 2011

The government's plans for a High Speed Rail link to Manchester are a vital part of the region's economic future, Greater Manchester transport leaders have told the government's Transport Select Committee.

As well as freeing up capacity on overcrowded commuter services, early estimates suggest bringing High Speed Rail to Manchester would boost the region's economy by at least £967 million every year, and help to create a minimum of 10,000 jobs across the north.

The response to the Select Committee also urges the government to make Manchester Airport a High Speed Rail stop, in addition to the city centre station, as it would be essential for improving connectivity for business and tourism.

Current proposals for High Speed Rail are for a Y-shaped route, connecting London with Birmingham and then branching off to Manchester and Leeds, with a Manchester - London journey time of just 80 minutes.

As well as increasing employment opportunities, connecting businesses and boosting productivity, High Speed Rail will also encourage passengers to travel by train instead of taking domestic flights or driving. This will reduce carbon emissions and ease the pressure on the crowded motorway network.

Sir Richard Leese, Vice Chairman of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: "Our great city depends on continued investment in infrastructure. Better connections to London and other cities are essential if we are to meet the challenge of remaining serious players in the global market-place. In promoting high speed rail, the government is making a choice not just for this generation, but for generations to come."

Councillor Keith Whitmore, Chairman of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: "Manchester's connection to London is based on a railway whose design began before the reign of Queen Victoria. A new high speed line, built without the disruption seen when the West Coast route was modified in the past decade, is essential if Greater Manchester is to thrive.

"A new line would also improve rail travel for local commuters, as the high speed line will free up much-needed capacity elsewhere on the network and ease overcrowding.

"We are also making it clear to the Select Committee that the full benefits of High Speed Rail rely on the full delivery of the Northern Hub programme, which would improve and expand the ordinary rail network around Manchester and allow passengers to make their onward journeys."

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