Coalition commits to Y-shaped high-speed rail network to Manchester and Leeds

Transport secretary Philip Hammond today committed to build a high-speed rail network in the UK beyond Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

Hammond told the Conservative Party conference that the coalition would consult in the new year on building a Y-shaped network, splitting north of Birmingham to serve the cities either side of the Pennine divide.

Hammond said: “I can announce today that the government’s preferred option for high-speed rail north of Birmingham will be for two separate corridors. One direct to Manchester, and then connecting on to the West coast Mainline, and the other via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire – with stations in both areas – before connecting to the East Coast Mainline north of Leeds.

” [This is] a strategic project that will make rail the mode of choice for most inter-city journeys within the UK, and for many beyond.”

The Department for Transport has been considering a number of possible routes north of Birmingham, including an S-shaped route up to manchester and then across the Pennines to Leeds, but it was decided the Y-route would offer more benefits, including the possibility of stations in Sheffield and the East Midlands.

Hammond also said that he was going to revise and simplify the funding streams for transport at a local authority level. Instead of multiple streams there will be only two – a formula grant – allowing councils to set their own priorities, and a local sustainable transport fund, which will “consolidate the remaining money in a single pot for which local authorities can bid to support plans for their areas.”

He added that the formulation of Local Economic Partnerships held out the promise of even more capital funding for transport being devolved.

Hammond also signalled a move towards de-carbonising motoring, which could affect the way spending on future capital projects is prioritised.