Boost for Northern Hub Plans
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Network Rail's £560m Northern Hub plans are set to be boosted later today when Chancellor George Osborne confirms funding for the electrification of the Leeds-Manchester rail link. The proposals, which will revolutionise rail infrastructure across the North, are supported by Insider's Back the Bid campaign.
In today's Autumn Statement Osborne is expected to outline plans to raise cash to back infrastructure projects worth £30bn. The government will inject £5bn up to 2015-16, then a further £5bn in the next Parliament.
It is hoped that £20bn will come from the National Association of Pension Funds and the Pension Protection Fund. The Treasury is also seeking more investment in infrastructure from insurance companies and from China.
The electrification of the line is one of a number of infrastructure projects, including a toll-reducing debt write down at the Humber Bridge, that the government is hoping to advance. It is a key component of the Northern Hub scheme which will aim to provide 700 trains a day, catering for 44 million passengers a year, and would guarantee faster and more direct services across the north.
Network Rail has said the plan would help to create thousands more jobs and that for every £1 spent, there will be £4 of benefit to the local economy.
Commenting on the expected announcement, Neil McLean, Leeds City Region LEP chairman Neil McLean, said: "We have known for a number of years that better connectivity between Leeds and Manchester would give a much needed transformational shot in the arm to the economic fortunes of the north.
"A 20-minute reduction in train journey times between our two cities would be worth £6.7bn at 2009 prices. We shall therefore be looking at the detail of any announcement delivered by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement on the electrification of the TransPennine rail link.
"It is important however that we don't look at infrastructure in isolation; increased investment in the skills of our workforce is vital to ensure the economic benefit is spread far and wide."
His comments were echoed by councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council.
"This is fantastic news which will bring tens of thousands of jobs and much-welcome reductions in journey times between our two great northern industrial and economic powerhouse cities. It will make it possible to travel between Leeds and Manchester by train in less than 45 minutes.
"It has already been widely reported that such a move could bring around £6.7bn improvement in the region's productivity and it would also provide many direct benefits to Leeds and its people
"Key among these are the undoubted opportunities for job creation and economic development as electrification of the trans-Pennine rail route makes it an even more appealing prospect for developers and would-be employers to set up in Leeds. This electrification could form a hub for future expansion of electrified lines into Calderdale and other areas."
"With the new opportunities offered by the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone and many new developments such as Leeds Arena and Trinity Leeds under construction this is yet another reason to make Leeds and the wider region the area of choice to do business.
"We now look forward to what will hopefully be positive announcements next month on a number of other major transport infrastructure bids we have made, including the NGT trolleybus scheme, the vital refurbishment of the Leeds Inner Ring Road and the new rail station at Kirkstall Forge."
Meanwhile, three rail improvement projects in the region have secured cash from a £100m station improvement fund launched earlier this year.
They include: work on a Dore and Totley park & ride by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive; car park improvements at Northallerton by First Keolis TransPennine; and a new station building at Wakefield Westgate by East Coast.
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