Over the last few years politicians have been throwing around terms like HS2, Crossrail North, and Northern Powerhouse Rail. It doesn’t help anyone that the details as well as the names of these projects seem to fluctuate. We’re writing this article to bring you the latest news about the upcoming rail projects in Northern England, and we’re also going to tell you what these projects mean for the local economies and investment in those areas.
The first thing to make clear is the distinction between the two major transport projects: HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
What is HS2?
High Speed Rail 2, or HS2, is quite possibly the largest project to overhaul the UK’s Rail infrastructure since the railways were first built it the 1870s. This initiative aims to become a backbone of transport in Britain. In short, HS2 is planned to introduce 345 miles of new high-speed track to connect many of the UK’s major centres. Additionally, HS2 trains will be able to serve further areas in northern England and Scotland because they will be cross-compatible between the old and new tracks.
HS2 is scheduled to connect eight of the UK’s largest cities; Birmingham, London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and will serve 25 stations along the way. It is expected that 15,000 people will be able to travel between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds every hour.
Construction is to be carried out in three phases:
• Phase 1: Connects London to the West Midlands
• Phase 2a: Connects the West Midlands and Crewe
• Phase 2b: Connects Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to York and Leeds
The final completion date is 2033, but phase 1 is scheduled to be complete in 2026 and Phase 2a in 2027.
How much does HS2 cost?
If you’ve read about HS2 in the news it’s most likely to be in relation to the somewhat controversial costs. The stated costs are claimed to be in the region of £56bn. However the Financial Times reported that costs could rise by £30bn.
What are are the benefits of HS2?
Not only will HS2 bridge the gap between the northern and southern regions in the UK, it will also slash journey times:
• Birmingham-London reduces from 1hr 21min to 49min
• Manchester-London reduces from 2hr 8min to 1hr 8min
• Birmingham-Leeds reduces from 2hr to 57min
• London-Edinburgh and Glasgow reduced from 4hr 30min to 3hr 30min
The injections to the local economies placed on the HS2 line must not be underestimated. Virtually every town and region reached by HS2 will receive a boost to their economies. You can read a full breakdown by area here, but we’re going to have a brief look at the growth plan for Leeds.
Leeds – A case study of growth
Leeds council has compiled its own detailed growth strategy for how to manage upcoming changes to the local area and make the best of what is an incredible event in Leeds’ history.
Leeds region predicts that HS2 will lead to about 40,000 new jobs and a £54 billion boost to the regional economy by 2050.
HS2 is going to be used as a catalyst for growth. The Leeds South Bank development is one of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe. It is targeting an increase of economic output valued at double the current product. As well as the boom in job numbers already mentioned. 8,000 new homes will be created and educational facilities constructed for over 10,000 students.
Cleary HS2 is a revolutionary opportunity for Leeds.
What is Northern Powerhouse Rail?
Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is another major initiative designed to create better connectivity between cities, this time exclusively focusing on key Northern areas.
The Strategic Outline Business Case was approved in February 2019, and outlines how this project will increase the capacity, speed and reliability of northern England’s rail network.
This is the biggest transport overhaul in the northern regions since the industrial revolution. It will provide passengers with quicker and more reliable journeys between the North’s economies.
Here is a breakdown of the project:
Upgrade lines running from:
• Manchester to Sheffield
• Sheffield to Doncaster and Selby
• Leeds to Hull
• York to Darlington
• The TransPennine Express running from Manchester to Leeds
Build new lines running from:
• Liverpool to Manchester, passing through Crewe
• Manchester to Leeds, passing through Bradford
How much will the Northern Powerhouse Rail cost?
Although coming in at substantially cheaper than HS2 the costs are still a hefty £39bn.
What will the benefits of the Northern Power House Rail project be?
Northern Powerhouse Rail will increase services across northern England and cut journey times:
• Newcastle to Leeds time to reduce by 30-37 minutes, with 1 further service
• Leeds to Hull time to reduce by 19 minutes, with 1 further service
• Sheffield to Leeds to reduce by 11-14 minutes, with 3 further services
• Sheffield to Hull to reduce by 30-36 minutes, with 1 further service
• Manchester to Sheffield to reduce by 9-17 minutes, with 2 further services
• Leeds to Manchester to reduce by 21-32 minutes, with 2 further services
• Liverpool to Manchester to reduce by 11-31 minutes, with 2 further services
Bradford – A case study of growth
Bradford’s economy is worth £10.5 billion and the city is home to around 500,000 people. However, in recent times Bradford has not been well connected and has therefore not been able to unlock its full potential. Thankfully this is all set to change thanks to the introduction of the Northern Powerhouse project and the scheduled arrival of HS2 in nearby Leeds (which is accessible by the Northern Powerhouse Rail). These two major projects mean that Bradford is estimated to receive a massive boost of £15 billion by 2060.
Much like Leeds and the HS2 project, Bradford will be using its greater connectivity as a springboard for regeneration and wealth creation.
The city has its own plan to focus on areas of development to encourage the economy to become the fastest growing in the UK. Four initiatives around education, culture, business and connection are aiming to increase the value of the local economy by £4 billion, moving 20,000 more people into work and improving the skills of 48,000 residents.
What does all this mean?
There are some plans afoot to revolutionise the transport infrastructure in the UK. HS2 will benefit the economies of many cities on its route, but if you’re living in northern England or thinking of buying or investing in property in the region, you can take away from all this a sense that big things are happening. It looks like the key to northern England’s growth potential is finally going to be handed to regions that have waited too long to enjoy prosperity.
Of course, with economic wealth comes an increase in house prices. As we are currently in the early stages of investment in areas such as Leeds and Bradford, now may very well be a good time to consider claiming your own piece of northern prosperity.