The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Chamber Blog: Crossrail North

By Chris Fletcher - Marketing & Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce 

Crossrail North.

Don't bother trying to find any reference to this. There’s not even a hashtag - yet.

It doesn't actually exist.

But it should.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked for comments on the current state and plans for HS2; we’ve had the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership chaired by former Chancellor George Osborne and finally seen the PM  acknowledge that the Powerhouse is still alive and has a future beyond the Olympic homecoming.

The Northern Powerhouse has been linked to many things since it was first mentioned in public in June 2014 by Mr Osborne. Many of these could be classed as people jumping on the bandwagon. At its heart it was, is and will be about better connectivity - connecting both physically and digitally the major economic areas across the north of England. Whilst the focus falls on Manchester and Leeds it isn't just about those two cities or indeed cities in general. I don’t live in a city. I live in what could be described as quite a rural area but my “productivity” lies squarely within Greater Manchester and specifically in the city centre.  And I have to get there somehow.  Yes there’s always Skype and remote working - I do all that but I still have to get into the city. Plus let’s be honest I’m not sure the digital infrastructure is properly up to it.

So, we need infrastructure - lots of it, proper broadband and roads, ports and air investment as well.   However for now let’s just focus on rail. We hear a lot about HS2 - and just to re-affirm it’s about capacity not speed and we also hear increasingly about the east-west rail link, or HS3 as it was for a time; now it’s called Northern Powerhouse Rail. But do people understand this, know what it’s for and do they know why it's needed? Not just here in the north but across the country?

Here’s a thought  - how about we call it Crossrail North?

That’s what we are looking at both in size, scale and purpose - it is a crossrail project for the north. The same needs that brought about that project exist here and now where we live and work.

Let’s start being clear about what we want, put it in terms people understand and so we can spend less time explaining what it is and why we need it and focus on getting it planned, built and delivered.

If London needed it - and Crossrail 2 is being planned with Crossrail not finished yet -  then I’m absolutely sure we need it too.


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