05 Dec, 2019

Rail revolution: The next step for booming Northern cities

2019 10 25 bullet train

The Northern rail network is changing. Following Northern Rail's October announcement that older ‘pacer’ trains are being phased out, and the news that Virgin Trains will no longer operate the franchise which connects Manchester to London, we have taken a look at the future of the railways in the North – and there is a lot to look forward to.

HS2

The first phase of any successful Northern railway revolution is the completion of the HS2 high speed rail line which will not only reduce journey times to London, but will also ease overcrowding on existing lines.

To make sure that HS2 works for the North, the Mayors of Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds have called for control of the scheme in order to get the second phase – which will cover the area north of the Midlands – completed on time and in full.

This call was also echoed by business leaders across the North, who also insisted that passing control of HS2 to Northern leaders is the right move. A statement from the Confederation of British Industry lays out the benefits, saying: "HS2 will bring benefits to local communities far beyond its costs. It will create half a million jobs, stimulate house building along its route and support much-needed investment across the Midlands, North and beyond.

"It is the critical spine that will bring wider transport improvements like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub to life."

Northern Powerhouse Rail

Planned by Transport for the North to be the region’s biggest investment since the Industrial Revolution, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will be a social and economic catalyst for people and businesses in the North.

By properly linking the major towns and cities across the North, and hugely increase capacity between them, NPR will reduce journey times by at least half an hour – measures that will supercharge the Northern economy. What’s more, NPR will make Manchester Airport an indispensable hub of the global economy, strengthening its position as the gateway to the North as well as positioning the city as the gateway to the UK. Supply chains will be shortened, trading routes will be strengthened, and Manchester in particular will reap the benefits.

Economic boom

Past evidence shows that giving local authorities real, transformative powers and funding to take control of their own rail networks delivers outsized benefits which allow cities to reach their potential.

In Manchester for example, job growth and business investment are soaring thanks to new powers enjoyed by the City Council and Mayor Andy Burnham. These powers allow more grants and investment to help new businesses, as well as adjusting planning laws to allow greater flexibility when building new homes and developments across the city.

This focus on local investment has paid dividends in recent years, and the impressive number of new businesses in emerging technology and high growth industries have attracted an increasing number of affluent young professional workers into the city.

As Manchester’s population increases, so does the demand for housing. This is particularly true in the city centre where the population is predicted to grow by 5,000 every year until at least 2025. Indeed, anywhere close to either the centre of Manchester or other popular areas such as its business district, Spinningfields, are going to see almost unbelievable demand for housing over in the coming years.

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