On top of the Northern Hub which will deliver electrified rail for the rail links from Preston to Manchester via Bolton and via Wigan and to Blackpool we have fresh discussion on a ‘northern powerhouse’.
The Northern Powerhouse is the name given to a scheme that is intended to help revitalise the north of England and to rebalance the level of investment between the north and south. It will link 5 major cities of the north with ‘high speed’ rail, meaning over 125mph not the full standard over 200mph track but still possibly designated ‘HS3’. This will be on top of the high speed rail system HS2.
Unfortunately neither HS2 or ‘HS3’ reach Preston. Although Preston will get benefits from HS2 such as 30 minutes off the current London timing of just over 2hrs.
Also locally there is the Preston and Lancashire City Deal which will add some £400m to the local economy for rail, road and housing. This will provide local improvements to complement the bigger national improvements. The test is whether Preston can or should become a part of the Northern Powerhouse and what it offers for Preston and Preston offers it.
Towns like Blackburn and Blackpool will also want to know how they can benefit rather than being satellite towns. Preston has the benefit of being on the M6 and the West Coast Main Line although further south the town of Wigan is closer to the edge of the planned systems investment. Preston has a skills benefit being an existing major administration and education centre and having a long term advanced technology industry in aerospace and vehicles.
It does appear that all major regional investments lead to Manchester. This has some benefits to Preston but we need to get extensions to these routes to take in the hub of Lancashire, which is Preston.