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Nick Clegg refuses to make HS2 a red line

The first part of the High Speed Two line, between London and Birmingham, is due to open in 2026. Credit: HS2

Nick Clegg has refused to make high-speed rail between the north and south a red line in any coalition deal after the election.

In an interview with our Political Correspondent Paul Brand, the Liberal Democrat leader said he supports High Speed Two but would not add it to his list of non-negotiable conditions before entering another government.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all support HS2 but Nick Clegg accused Labour of "ambivalence" over the project. UKIP does not support HS2.

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Business leaders welcome high-speed rail "good start"

The North East Chamber of Commerce *(NECC) *has welcomed the Chancellor George Osborne's call for a new high-speed rail network between Manchester and Leeds, even though there was no suggestion of extending it to the North East.

The organisation, which represents businesses, said the plan was a "good start" but warned that the government should ensure it amounted to more than a just words.

“The Chancellor’s speech is good news and provides an indication that effort is being put into connecting the North of England. High speed rail will increase capacity and speed up our vital rail links and as such we welcome its development.

“The prospect of a high-speed east-west link across the North is a good start, but the North of the country does not stop at Leeds. This announcement must be part of a larger effort to create a full high speed northern rail network.

“The Chancellor’s ambition for a Northern ‘HS3’ is positive and this project could play a large part in strengthening and balancing growth across the whole of the country

“Of course we want to see a firm commitment from to include the North East in future plans for high speed rail, but for now the Government must ensure that the Chancellor’s words amount to more than just a political speech. They must form the basis of a regional strategy that has been missing in recent years.”

– Ross Smith, Director of Policy

Think-tank dismisses high-speed rail "vanity project"

The Institute of Economic Affairs *(IEA) *has dismissed George Osborne's idea of a new high-speed rail network for the North, calling it a "costly vanity project".

“The relatively short distances between northern cities mean high-speed rail is an expensive and inefficient way of linking them. Because northern conurbations are spread out geographically and include numerous different towns, high-speed trains between the largest city centres would make little difference to door-to-door journey times for a high proportion of travellers.

“The Chancellor should focus on smaller-scale schemes that deliver high returns for the taxpayer or, better still, that can be financed privately, rather than concocting a headline-grabbing vanity project to attract votes.

“Not content with wasting tens of billions on the loss-making HS2 scheme, George Osborne is now threatening to compound the error by forcing taxpayers to fund HS3.”

– Dr Richard Wellings, Deputy Editorial Director
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Economic growth is fastest in North, says Chancellor

Chancellor George Osborne has said the fastest growing economic activity right now is in the North-East.

Giving a keynote speech in Manchester, he said people were also joining the jobs market there at the fastest rate.

Despite being a Londoner, the MP, who represents Tatton in Cheshire, spoke of his love for the North.

Being a Londoner I am proud to represent a northern constituency.

I feel the buzz and the energy every time I’m here. And I see it too in the Treasury data."

– George Osborne.
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Create 'northern powerhouse,' says Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne gives his keynote speech in Manchester. Credit: Pool

A new high-speed rail connection and better roads could create an economic "powerhouse" in the north of England to rival the success of London, George Osborne said today.

The Chancellor is proposing the new transport link between Manchester and Leeds to connect a collection of northern cities, which if combined could 'take on the world.'

He said he was prepared to back it up with money in the sum of '£6 to 7billion.'

He said: "It's a vision of how you create better road and rail links across the Pennines.

"We are about to commit, later this year, many billions of pounds to investing in our economy to try to bring together a vision of how the north of England can have this northern powerhouse."

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