| LONDON, June 23
LONDON, June 23 Britain will consider building
an east-west high-speed railway between cities in northern
England to help boost economic growth outside London, finance
minister George Osborne will say on Monday.
Less than a year away from a national election and with his
Conservatives trailing by six points in the polls, Osborne's
call to build a "northern powerhouse" will be seen as an attempt
to boost the party's appeal in the opposition Labour party's
"The cities of the north are individually strong, but
collectively not strong enough ... So the powerhouse of London
dominates more and more. And that's not healthy for our economy.
It's not good for our country," Osborne will say at a speech in
Manchester, according to extracts released in advance.
"We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here
in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west
... That means considering a new high-speed rail link."
Osborne will say the potential link between Manchester and
Leeds could be based on the existing rail route, but with trains
running faster and with new tunnels and infrastructure.
A connected network of northern cities will provide better
jobs and opportunities, Osborne will say.
"In the modern knowledge economy, businesses and
entrepreneurial types want to flock together more than ever. To
form clusters where they can learn from and spark off each
A north-south high-speed rail connection is already planned,
with the first leg of the route between London and Birmingham in
central England due to be completed in 2026, and an extension to
Leeds and Manchester to be finished by 2033.
Work on the north-south line, which has proved contentious
due to the estimated 43 billion pound ($73 billion) price tag
and a backlash from residents of constituencies along the
planned route, is not due to start until 2017.
Labour economy spokesman Ed Balls said in a statement: "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
He added: "Nobody will believe the Tories (Conservatives)
can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the
north of England. Regional growth divides have widened markedly
($1 = 0.5876 British Pounds)
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)