Plan rail links ‘as one’ to boost North

Artist's impression of a HS3 train
Artist's impression of a HS3 train

The Government’s vision for the North as an economic powerhouse will not be fully realised without significant improvements in transport connectivity, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers.

ICE’s Northern Powerhouse Panel welcomed the drive to boost growth, progress on devolution and the growing success of northern cities such as Sheffield.

But it said the region would struggle to compete on the global market as a single economic zone - a fundamental tenet of the Northern Powerhouse plan - without better transport links.

The Star is campaigning for the planned HS2 station to be in Sheffield city centre to maximise the economic benefit for Sheffield City Region and the North. It would also form the Sheffield-Leeds leg of the HS3 plan for fast trains between northern city centres.

The ICE panel backed a mix of small scale investments and transport projects to address the North’s connectivity weaknesses, but warned against progressing individual projects in isolation.

It urged Government to adopt a “whole network” approach, where investment is based on a comprehensive, integrated strategy.

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at KPMG, said: “The benefits are far reaching – it facilitates the fast and easy exchange of people, goods, knowledge, skills and services, and enables access to health services, education and leisure. It creates thriving economic hubs, or powerhouses, that can compete internationally.

“The opportunity is huge, but it will not fully prosper as one economy without significant improvements in connectivity.

“There is much to be done – spend on new transport infrastructure in the North has lagged behind London for decades.”