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THE leader of Cheshire East Council has welcomed the Chancellor’s call for a third high-speed rail line to boost connectivity and the economy in the north of England.

A so-called HS3 high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds could help to create a ‘northern global powerhouse’, George Osborne said today, Monday, June 23.

He said better road and rail links would allow cities across northern England ‘to take on the world’, as London has done.

The Chancellor said the plan could cost up to £7bn – but could be cheaper if existing rail lines were updated.

Clr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, who is pushing for the creation of a multi-million pound strategic HS2 transport hub at Crewe, said: “This is great news and I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s support for greater high-speed rail connectivity in the north.

“This is the right strategic solution – not just for Crewe and Cheshire East – but for the north and the country as a whole. And we need to act now to get it right and unlock the potential of high-speed rail to rebalance our country’s economy.

“Let’s be clear: ‘business as usual’ is not an option. What we need is the transformational change that HS2 and a strategic transport hub at Crewe and now HS3 will bring.”

Mr Osborne said the building of the east-west link should be considered as part of a review into the second phase of the £50bn HS2 high-speed rail project.

The Chancellor’s announcement follows on the back of two major reports (the Higgins and Deighton reports) that backed the benefits of HS2 for the North of England and which called for the creation of a major strategic transport hub at Crewe.

A new strategic HS2 hub station at Crewe would create up to 60,000 jobs and deliver an estimated £1.5bn in transport benefits, with potential for a further £1bn of wider economic benefits.

The Deighton Report (in March) said Crewe was ‘ideally placed to act as a hub station to connect HS2 into the surrounding regions’.

The report said the extra capacity released by HS2 provides an opportunity to reconfigure services and better utilise the strategic location of Crewe to serve major centres in the North West, such as Liverpool, Warrington and Chester and also Stoke, Stafford and all the local stations, which form part of the commute into bigger cities – supporting regeneration in the process.