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Osborne: A closely linked North could 'take on world'

George Osborne will say a collection of northern cities linked closer together by new transport infrastructure could "take on the world" as he bids to end London's "unhealthy" economic dominance.

The Chancellor will say in a keynote speech in Manchester today:

We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west - to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city.

As well as fixing the roads, that means considering a new high speed rail link.

Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds.

– Chancellor George Osborne

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Chancellor sets out vision for 'Northern Powerhouse'

A new high-speed rail connection and improved roads between England's northern cities could help create an economic powerhouse to rival London, George Osborne will say today.

He will use a speech to say an upgraded, link between Manchester and Leeds should be considered as part of the review of the second phase of the project. The Chancellor will say he wants travelling through towns and cities in the north to be as easy as moving around a major global metropolis.

Under current plans the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project will link London to Birmingham in its first stage, before creating a Y-shaped network with lines to Manchester and Leeds by 2032/33.

We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west - to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city.

As well as fixing the roads, that means considering a new high speed rail link. Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds."

– Chancellor George Osborne

Nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the north of England. Regional growth divides have widened markedly since 2010. The Tories scrapped Labour's successful regional development agencies, failed to implement Lord Heseltine's growth report and are planning to cut infrastructure investment next year.

On high-speed rail, we said months ago that we need value for money for the taxpayer and to improve the existing plans to maximise the benefits for the whole country and strengthen the links between northern cities. Ministers need finally to start listening."

– Shadow chancellor Ed Balls

Manchester shortlisted to become the home of the National College for High Speed Rail

Manchester could be location for HS2 skill base Credit: PA Images

Manchester is among four locations across the country to have been shortlisted to become the home of the National College for High Speed Rail.

The announcement came from Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock.

The Government say the so called new College ‘hub’ and a number of ‘spokes’ based across the country will provide training to the next generation of engineers working on the HS2 project and beyond.

The areas shortlisted for further development are Birmingham, Derby, Doncaster and Manchester.

The quality of responses was very high overall with strong bids from many locations.

All bids were assessed against a range of criteria including the size and availability of a suitable site, accessibility, and the potential to develop strong links with employers and providers already operating in the sector.

Church of England joins HS2 battle

Artist impression

The Church of England has joined opponents of the Government's HS2 proposals, warning that current plans for constructing the line mean human remains will not be treated "in a decent and reverent manner".

The Archbishops' Council, which is led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, says there must be changes to give greater protection to remains which have to be exhumed along the route.

In a petition to the House of Commons, the Council says that works authorised by the Bill will involve the destruction of three burial grounds consecrated for the burial of the dead in accordance with the rites of the Church of England and the removal of human remains and monuments from them.

They have complained that the link will cut through their estates,cause noise and damage areas of outstanding natural beauty. The link will speed up travel time between the north and south.

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Manchester firms encouraged to make the most of HS2

The company behind the High Speed rail link is urging companies in Manchester to prepare for future business opportunities. HS2 limited are in the city today to speak to local firms and help them make the most out of the multi-billion pound project.

HS2 will bring huge benefits to Manchester in terms of creating jobs and redevelopment opportunities around the HS2 stations, making it an even more attractive place to work and do business.

It is vital that we understand and observe the market's current thoughts and opinions before developing our final procurement strategy for Phase One of the project, between London and the West Midlands.

We are keen to work with businesses from across the UK, and also those who are not traditionally involved in the rail sector, as they can bring best practice to ensure the delivery of HS2."

– HS2 Ltd Commercial Director, Beth West

The development of HS2 heralds a wealth of opportunities that will not only benefit the region's economy but will also see major improvements to the existing transport network.

The development of new stations at Piccadilly and Manchester Airport will increase overall capacity across all modes of transport and in so doing enable better connectivity across the network.

HS2's economic forecasts suggest that up to 180,000 new jobs would be created in the region by the early 2040s so it's essential that Greater Manchester's transport network is ready to cater for the increased demand."

– Transport for Greater Manchester's Chief Executive, Dr Jon Lamonte

HS2 debate in Parliament

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The proposed high speed rail link between London and the North could come a step closer today. MPs are expected to discuss the first phase of the controversial HS2 project which would run between London and Birmingham.

Final day to have your say on HS2

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Today is the final day for the public to have their say on the HS2 rail link connecting Manchester to the south.

There has been strong opposition to the plans along parts of the route. Since the consultation opened on 17 July last year HS2 Ltd has held more than 37 public information events all along the line of the proposed route. Head of consultation Farahnaz Ashouri said:

"I very much encourage people to have their say on the proposed route of the new high speed line that will connect up Leeds and Manchester to Birmingham. It is vitally important that we get their local knowledge.

People can respond to the consultation here.

Once the consultation closes on 31 January, the independent report on the responses will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin. He will then announce the government's decision on the Phase Two route towards the end of the year.

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