Boosting rail services across the North could unleash a £1trillion bonanza and create tens of thousands of jobs, a report says today.
Going ahead with the HS2 high-speed rail link and connecting major towns and cities across the region could trigger a knock-on effect in other industries, according to campaigners.
Strengthening the transport network is key to unlocking the potential windfall between 2035 and 2050, says the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
It comes as a review is carried out into the Tories’ £56billion flagship rail project HS2, amid soaring costs and fresh delays.
Supporters fear the scheme could be scaled back or hit the buffers altogether.
But today’s NPP report calls for a new body, dubbed HS2 North, to be created so the high-speed line can link up with Northern Powerhouse Rail, a separate project connecting Leeds, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.
Chris Oglesby, who sits on the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into HS2, said: “HS2 will be transformational in equipping the North to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“It delivers massive economic benefits by increasing capacity and speed, both between our cities and into them on both new and existing lines.
“This, in turn, will increase access the labour markets for high growth industries and drive productivity; as much in enabling new jobs as improving existing ones.
“It will drive regeneration in our cities and towns around the stations and beyond, whilst the stations themselves will also be economic engines in their own right.”
The NPP says the “potential aggregate GVA (gross value added) prize for the North equates to £1,000billion (£1trillion) between 2035 and 2050”.
But the jackpot hinges on delivering HS2, warns the think-tank.
Phase one between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026.
The second stage to Leeds and Manchester is scheduled to be finished by 2033.
In Leeds, HS2 will create 50,000 jobs, adding £54billion to the regional economy by 2050, the NPP report says.
In Greater Manchester, by 2050 HS2 will create 60,000 jobs around Piccadilly and Manchester Airport, with an additional 37,000 jobs around Crewe railway station.
And in Liverpool, by 2050 HS2 direct services via NPR will create an additional 24,000 new jobs.
Mr Oglesby added: “HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are completely interlinked and a joined-up approach is required to both and the upgrades to existing lines.
“Only by delivering an integrated high-speed network right across the North can a Northern Powerhouse vision be truly realised.
“Further delays and uncertainty are hugely damaging to North and the country as a whole.”
Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said: “To truly rebalance Britain, by building the Northern Powerhouse, we need substantially increased capacity on our rail network.
“The benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 together are greater than either scheme alone and cancellation of either east and/or western leg without a proven and credible alternative could leave us with no way to secure the economic competitiveness we need, which alongside productivity gains, is a prerequisite of rebalancing the British economy.”
HS2 review chairman Douglas Oakervee’s report is due to be published by the end of the year.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The independent review into HS2, led by Douglas Oakervee with Lord Berkeley as deputy and a panel of advisers, will provide the government with clear advice on how and whether the project should proceed.
“As the Prime Minister recently set out, this Government wants to drive growth across the North including through Northern Powerhouse Rail and giving local leaders a greater say in the running of the railway.
“We will also publish a White Paper on the recommendations of the Williams Review, ensuring we deliver the reforms that will give passengers a punctual, modern and reliable railway.”