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New city regions body will oversee HS3

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Chancellor George Osborne has announced the creation of a new body composed of city regions in the north of England to oversee major transport projects, including a new high-speed rail link connecting Manchester and Leeds.

The body, called Transport for the North, was outlined alongside the announcement of government backing for the new high-speed rail line across the north.

A statement from Number 10 said the body would “work together with other authorities and stakeholders and allow the north to speak with one voice on the big decisions to benefit the region as a whole”.

It would be “made up of the main northern city regions” and would be tasked with working with the government to produce a “comprehensive transport strategy for the region”, the statement said.

It added that this would “help transform the economy of the north of England and play a key role in delivering a northern powerhouse”.

City region governance bodies have been set up around Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and the north-east.

The new line, named HS3, would link Leeds and Manchester, speeding up rail journey times across the Pennines.

This would be additional to the HS2 line, planned to run from London to Birmingham with branches later extending to Leeds and Manchester.

The announcement came as prime minister David Cameron responded to a report by HS2 chair Sir David Higgins on how to improve the north’s transport links.

Sir David’s report identified east-west connections as a barrier to growth, pointing out that the Leeds to Manchester journey took 55 minutes but could be cut to between 26 and 34 minutes on a high-speed line.

In his report he said Transport for the North should be a “tightly focused group” containing representatives from the north’s five city-regions: Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and the north-east.

He said the new body would be responsible for determining the north’s key transport priorities, liaising directly with national agencies such as Network Rail and the Highways Agency, much like Transport for London does in the capital.

Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield (Lab) said in a statement that he welcomed the establishment of a “new influential body speaking for the wider region”.

The separate One North report, published by a consortium of northern authorities earlier this year, estimated that a 20-minute reduction in journey times between Leeds and Manchester would generate £6.7bn worth of economic benefits across the north of England.

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