Highways Agency to draw up plans for trans-Pennine road tunnel

Plans for a trans-Pennine road tunnel along with an upgrade in east-west road links are to be drawn up as part of the strategy to develop the north. Highways Agency chairman Colin Matthews will oversee the proposals. A tunnel, according to initial government initial figures, could cut journey times across the Pennines by up to 30 minutes.

M62 Pennine section

Need for better road links in the north alongside construction of rail links was first mooted by Sir David Higgins in his Rebalancing Britain report looking at the potential knock on impact of constructing HS2.

The latest move was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne during their visit to the north west this week to highlight progress on developing the northern powerhouse to create a better balanced economy.

"We will deliver the largest, most sustained, investment in transport  the north west has ever seen," the Chancellor promised. "And we are taking further the work on improving the road links across the north. I have asked the chairman of the Highways Agency, Colin Matthews, to look at the technical feasibility of building a road tunnel, or tunnels, across the Pennines and Peak District. It is the sort of project underway in other countries thinking long term about their future prosperity and jobs, and we raise our ambition here in the north to achieve the same."

At the same time Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin revealed that the  Department for Transport has agreed a plan with the operators of the Northern and TransPennine Express routes to offer more carriages and seats to deal with growing complaints from passengers.

Introduction of electric trains on the Manchester to Liverpool in May – faster than original planned,  and additionally on Liverpool to Preston routes in the will free up existing diesels to create additional capacity elsewhere on the north’s network.

Osborne and Cameron laid down at timetable of key events that will transform the north’s economy. Up to 2018 they include:

2015 Connecting up the north

•    essential pre-construction works procurement for High Speed 2 (HS2) will be carried out to ensure spades will be ready to hit the ground once the Phase 1 hybrid bill receives Royal Assent.

•    decisions on taking forward Phase 2 of HS2 are due to be made.

•    decisions on the section of Phase 2 south of Crewe opening by 2027 (6 years earlier than currently scheduled) are due to be made.

•    interim report of the comprehensive transport strategy for the north will be produced by March 2015. The strategy will cover the potential options, costs and delivery timescales for High Speed 3

•    specification of the next Northern and Trans-Pennine Express rail franchises will be released. The next franchises will deliver additional capacity, new trains and investment in stations

•    electrification of the railway between Manchester and Liverpool will be complete

•    new deep water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool will open. The £300 million project is central to the strategy for further development in Atlantic Gateway, to maximise private investment in the area and support the delivery of critical infrastructure

•    commenced work on the three strategic studies in the north - the Trans Pennine Tunnel, the A66/A69 and the M60 West of Manchester


2015 A voice for the north

•     government will also announce the allocations of a further £1 billion of the £12 billion Local Growth Fund in early 2015, from which Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Lancashire, Liverpool and Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnerships are “well placed to secure funding to support local projects as part of their ambitious plans for growth”

•     government will take steps to ensure the full implementation of the devolution deal with Greater Manchester, to deliver a directly elected Mayor for the metro area. As an agreed transitional step towards this, the government will aim to publish secondary legislation by the end of March to introduce an appointed Mayor for Greater Manchester


2016 Connecting up the north

•    construction work should have begun on the £350 million Metrolink extension to Trafford Park

•    new Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises will commence

•    construction work will have begun on the £1.8 billion of investment in the national road network in the north-west. Schemes that will benefit from the investment include:

•    a four-lane Smart Motorway link on the M62, all the way from Manchester to Leeds

•    improvements to the road links to the port of Liverpool and Ellesmere Port, backed with £300 million of investment

•    a £170 million investment on the A57, A628 and A628 Trans-Pennine Route, including a bypass for the village of Mottram

•    further investment on the southern access to Manchester, joining up previously announced schemes to provide better access to the city and Manchester airport.


2016 A voice for the north

•    primary legislation will be introduced to enable Greater Manchester to introduce a directly elected Mayor.


2017 Connecting up the north

•    construction work will have begun on the £21.4 billion investment in Phase 1 of HS2, subject to Royal Assent for the hybrid bill

•    work on the £210 million road investment from Junction 8 on the M60 to Junction 20 on the M62 will be completed.

•    work on the £191 million road investment in the A556 in Cheshire will be completed. work on the Mersey Gateway Bridge, where construction will have been completed on a new six-lane toll bridge, linking Runcorn and Widnes.

2017 A voice for the north

•    first election for a new Mayor of Greater Manchester will have taken place, subject to the necessary legislation, and the new directly elected Mayor will be in post with significant new responsibilities, including control of a £300 million Housing Investment Fund, powers over strategic planning and responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget


2018 Connecting up the north

•    Work on the £600 million investment in the Northern Hub will be completed in the winter of 2018. The Northern Hub is a co-ordinated programme of rail enhancements schemes including extra track, new platforms, and a new rail link (the Ordsall Chord) between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly. The new link will provide new direct services through Manchester city centre to Manchester airport. The Northern Hub will allow for shorter journey times across the north of England, improving the connections between Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle

•    main construction works on HS2 Phase 1 tunnels and stations are expected to commence

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