Northern Powerhouse Rail: What is it? A Guide

A Guide to Northern Powerhouse Rail (aka HS3)

  • What is it?
  • Where is it?
  • What are the aims?
  • Why is it necessary?
  • Developments & Conclusion

What is it?

In November 2014, Sir David Higgins (HS2 Ltd) published his report “Rebalancing Britain”, which recognised the work of the North of England’s six city regions to improve connectivity, particularly on the East-West axis and also proposed the creation of a new body – Transport for the North (TfN). This body was to be led by the city regions to work with the Department of Transport to develop long term plans for investment in transport aimed at securing an improvement in economic performance.

Where is it?

TfN subsequently set out a new vision for rail services across the North to radically improve journey times and frequencies between six major cities, namely Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, and Hull; plus Manchester Airport to support a single economy. The proposed new east to west high speed link has subsequently been named as Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

What are the aims?

The Northern Powerhouse Rail network will focus on connecting the aforementioned six major cities plus Manchester Airport. It is however acknowledged that there are opportunities for regeneration and increased wider economic benefits through the creation of additional intermediate stops between these major cities. While not yet an agreed output of TfN’s work, the business case for intermediate stops is being considered by TfN and its partners.

Why is it necessary?

The initial work associated with the business case for intermediate stops has included input and participation from Chamber members from Bradford, Leeds and York. There was general agreement that in delivering a new rail network for the North there are a number of foundations for NPR across the city region that must be in place and these include:

  • The city region must not go backwards and lose levels of connectivity that exist, or will be delivered through investment commitments,
  • The city region must not lose sight of the broad range of investment in transport that is needed in the city region, across all modes, including investment in the strategic road network,
  • Improved rail connectivity represents only part of the investment required to deliver economic and other objectives across the North,
  • Access to, through and within new or adapted rail stations is critical to improving accessibility and connectivity.

Developments & Conclusion

Chamber members advocated a strong message that an additional stop between Leeds and Manchester in the west of the city region is important. Many see the untapped potential of Bradford, and strongly favour an additional stop within the city centre. In the north and east of the city region, members emphasised York’s role as a gateway for a wide hinterland that stretches beyond Leeds City Region, and that York’s position as a gateway to the rail network is fundamental to northern and eastern Yorkshire within a pan-Northern context.

In conclusion the work supports the development of a new rail network in the city region in which:

  • An intermediate rail station would deliver additional GDP benefits to the Leeds City Region economy over and above a single stop at Leeds,
  • There is a strong case for an intermediate rail station to the west of Leeds,
  • Such a station is best located in Bradford, and that the location be in the city centre,
  • There is a case for stop at York, supported by strong arguments on land use and regeneration opportunities, and as a gateway for the rail network for northern and eastern Yorkshire,
  • Those parts of the Leeds City Region not directly served by a NPR station will receive benefits from released capacity.

Chamber members continue to stay involved as further work is being done to discuss the business communities aspirations for NPR in Bradford.