'HS3' rail line is a wise move politically for the Tories

Chancellor George Osborne speaking in Manchester earlier. Credit: Pool

By Chris Ship: Deputy Political Editor

For two major cities just 45 miles apart, a train journey time, at best, of 50 minutes (and, at worst, one hour 36 minutes) seems a little long.

It's why the boss of the company building the new HS2 rail line from London to Birmingham, and subsequently to Manchester and Leeds, recently concluded that less than half a percent of commuters into Manchester come from Leeds - and vice versa.

He also condemned the fact that it takes longer to travel from Liverpool to Hull than it does from London to Paris - which is twice the distance.

It explains why the Chancellor, George Osborne, is today hinting at a new high speed line - already dubbed HS3 - between Manchester and Leeds.

Much of the criticism of HS2 has focused on the journey times to and from London - rather than how it'll benefit passengers who don't travel to the capital.

He wants to connect what he is calling the "economic powerhouse" of the North of England and is urging cities like Hull, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool to act more like one city - to reap similar benefits available to London.

George Osborne wants to connect what he is calling the 'economic powerhouse' of the North of England. Credit: PA Wire

Why is he doing it? He is trying to dispel the perception that the Conservatives only care about London and their support base in the South.

Mr Osborne has hinted at further economic announcements for this part of the country later this week.

Politically, it a wise move for the Tories.

Ten months away from a General Election, the Conservatives have been struggling to find support in the big northern cities.

Many voters think the Government is overly concerned with London's economy (which accounts for a fifth of the UK's economic output) and that the economic recovery is only being felt in the South.

He admitted that the Conservatives have yet to successfully make the case for their economic plan in many parts of the country.

Speeding up train times across the North is a noticeable way to start making that argument - as the countdown continues to the election in May.