Northern leaders have agreed on a preferred way forward for a new railway network that will transform the region’s economy.

Following a Transport for the North meeting, elected mayors, council, and business leaders have recommended the Government commits to Northern Powerhouse Rail a network of new and significantly upgraded rail lines for the North of England including their initial route preferences.

They say securing funding and commitment for the project is a critical component of the Government’s desire to ‘level up’ the economic performance of the North with the rest of the country.

The network spans from Liverpool to Hull, Sheffield, and the North East, and would begin construction in 2024/5. It also links fully with HS2, with a shared track, stations, and junctions in parts.

This initial preferred way forward will now be sent to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.

The proposals include:

  • A new line to be constructed from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington
  • A new line to be constructed from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford
  • Significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield
  • Connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds
  • Significant upgrades and electrification of the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull
  • Significant upgrades of the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle (via York and Darlington) and restoration of the Leamside line

The move comes ahead of the much-anticipated publication of a new report that will set out long-term investment plans for rail upgrades in the North.

Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Rail Director, said: “This is a significant moment for Northern Powerhouse Rail, we have an initial preferred way forward for a rail network that will deliver thousands of jobs, cut carbon emissions and slash journey times between the North’s towns, cities and beyond.

“With the need to build back better following the Covid-19 pandemic, delivery of long-term, job-creating infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail need to be a critical component of the agenda. The preferred network would be transformational for the North’s economy and allow Northern workers access to enhanced opportunities through a wider jobs market.

Responding to the Transport for the North statement on Northern Powerhouse Rail, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said:

“Transport for the North’s recommendation to the Government is vindication of the strong and compelling case the Council, its partners, and the district’s business community have consistently made for a city centre Northern Powerhouse Rail station over several years.

“The station on a new through line between Leeds and Manchester would have a transformational economic and social impact on the Bradford District and wider region. It would unlock £15bn of additional growth and connect Bradford’s young population to future job opportunities across the north and the UK.

“Leaders from across the north of England have expressed their support for a Bradford city centre station on a new high-speed east-west line. Now we need the Government to give its own stamp of approval for work to continue to make Next Stop Bradford a rail reality and give an injection of post-COVID economic optimism to our city and district.

“We will continue working with Leeds City Region, TfN, and government on master planning for the future growth and regeneration around the city centre station to maximise its potential and positively assist the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail.”