High speed rail plans described as the biggest single transport intervention for the North since the Industrial Revolution are to be submitted to the Government after securing the backing of political and business leaders.
The board of Transport for the North agreed today that the business case for the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project - designed to dramatically improve journey times between the great cities of the North - would be handed into Ministers.
And as revealed in The Yorkshire Post last week, the strategic transport body will now urge the Government to commit long-term funding to the scheme so that the first stage of the scheme can start as early as 2024.
The submission of the outline business case was delayed last year because of fears the leg connecting Manchester and Liverpool could be prioritised over the trans-Pennine section. But TfN said northern leaders committed to the project today "with one voice".
If the project is approved by the Government, officials say it will bring millions more people and hundreds and thousands of businesses within reach of each of the key economic centres of the North by public transport.
The key features are a new line linking Leeds and Manchester via Bradford, including the option for either a Bradford city centre station or a parkway site serving the city, with journey times down to 30 minutes rather than the current 49. Journeys between Sheffield and Leeds will be shortened from 41 minutes to 26.
The full network is expected to be complete by 2033, but work on some elements of NPR, such as the Leeds-to-Hull route and the Hope Valley Line connecting Sheffield and Manchester, could start as early as 2024.
The decision came at a meeting in Chester where members of the TfN board also approved its 30-year vision for for how £70bn in infrastructure investment could transform the region and rebalance the national economy.
Tim Wood, Transport for the North’s Northern Powerhouse Rail Director, said: “Our leaders had a vision to connect the North by rail like never before. Today, we are a step closer to making that a reality.
"For too long, passengers and businesses have been held back by slower than average train speeds and poor connectivity between our city regions. If we’re going to re-balance the UK’s economy, this needs to be tackled head on."
The announcement was welcomed by political leaders in Yorkshire. Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Northern Powerhouse Rail, delivering a new line between Manchester and Leeds with a city centre station in Bradford, is an essential element of the comprehensive investment in transport infrastructure we need across the North.
“The North of England is collectively setting out a powerful positive case to the Government to support this project to deliver for our communities and the UK as a whole.”