New Network Rail chief sets sights on Northern Hub rail investment

Rail investment will pave the way for the economic growth of the north of England, say Greater Manchester transport leaders.

Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) welcomed comments by Network Rail Chief Executive David Higgins to the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee on Tuesday, in which he told the committee that government investment in rail infrastructure around Manchester was ‘absolutely essential.’

Mr Higgins also said that the £530 million Northern Hub proposals should be the ‘top priority’ for national rail funding.

Councillor Ian Macdonald, Chair of GMITA, said: “It’s great to see that Network Rail’s new chief executive is putting the Northern Hub to the forefront of Network Rail’s plans when setting out the case for government investment in rail.

“David Higgins’ comments also coincide with the Transport Select Committee’s report on Transport and the Economy, published yesterday, which welcomes the government’s commitment to undertake transport investment that will deliver sustainable growth and enterprise.

“The Northern Hub improvements will help us to meet the increasing demand for fast, direct rail connections between Greater Manchester and the rest of the north.

“This will boost the economy by providing vital transport links to get people to work, to enable businesses work together more closely and to reduce the cost of freight.

“It is essential that the government gives its full support to the Northern Hub if economic growth in the north is to continue. We would expect the government to consider implementing the Northern Hub before 2020 – these are value-for-money proposals with an estimated four-to-one return on investment.”

Councillor Keith Whitmore, Vice-Chair of GMITA, said: “It’s telling that the Transport Select Committee concluded that the government must do more to correct regional disparities in transport investment.

“The government has already announced that Manchester and Leeds will be part of its plans for inter-city high speed rail in the longer term, and investment in the Northern Hub is a necessary precursor to that.

“We’ve already worked closely with Network Rail during the development of the Northern Hub report, and will continue to do so as it makes the case for future government investment in the north’s railways.”

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