Poor road and rail links between Sheffield and Manchester should be a matter of ‘national concern’, HS2 project boss Sir David Higgins has said.
Sir David, who is in charge of the national high speed rail project, has warned road congestion will get worse throughout the north unless action is taken.
In his latest HS2 progress report, Sir David said he did not want to ‘pre-empt’ an announcement later this year on the Government’s latest road investment plans, but he did highlight the slow connections between Sheffield and Manchester.
With the Peak District sitting between the two cities, it currently takes more than an hour to cover the 38-mile journey on the A57 and the 42-mile journey on the A628.
Sir David said: “The triangle of Manchester-Leeds-Sheffield is central to the northern powerhouse economy, and the lack of high performance road and rail links between Manchester and Sheffield should be a matter of national concern.
“The environmental challenge facing any proposal to enhance transport links on that corridor is daunting. But we should be prepared to undertake a sober, considered and ambitious conversation about how to release untapped economic prosperity in the north, to strengthen prosperity while protecting its valued environment.”
Sir David added: “We are approaching a crunch point in which congestion will pose not just a major inconvenience to individuals, but increasingly act as a stranglehold on freight traffic at a national level.”
Earlier this year, the One North report on potential transport improvements in the region said the Highways Agency was unlikely to back the building of a new Sheffield to Manchester road because of ‘environmental constraints’.
But the Department for Transport is due to publish a report later this year on how road links between the two cities could be improved, while a new body called Transport for the North is also being developed to help deliver improvements to road and rail links.