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How to create a Manchester powerhouse

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In June 2014, Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, welcomed chancellor George Osborne’s “ambitious announcement about creating a northern powerhouse, making the most of the belt of cities running from Liverpool to Hull, taking in Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds”. And if Manchester commuters travelled further, the economy would be boosted.

[How to build a ‘northern powerhouse’, Alexandra Jones, Centre for Cities chief executive, 2014-06-23]

First, ensure that the first phase of the fast-speed link goes from Manchester to Leeds. Better east-west links across the country are clearly vital, and will be required to make the most of HS2 for northern economies. But infrastructure investment always takes time so we would urge the government to prioritise Manchester to Leeds. If Manchester’s commuters travelled the same average distance as commuters to London, businesses in the city would have access to 1.5 million graduates (see map below). They are just 44 miles apart, yet it is one of the slowest train connections in the country. Connecting the two biggest northern cities has most potential to have the greatest early impact on scale and growth.

Centre for Cities, Northern powerhouse or Manchester powerhouse?

How much of that actually makes sense?

“Connecting the two biggest northern cities has most potential to have the greatest early impact on scale and growth.”

Where is the evidence?

“If Manchester’s commuters travelled the same average distance as commuters to London, businesses in the city would have access to 1.5 million graduates”.

But most people who commute ‘to London’, actually are ‘in London’ — Greater London. According to the Office of National Statistics (2011), the average work commute in England and Wales was 15 km, while working residents in London had the shortest commutes (11 km).

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Written by beleben

March 16, 2016 at 10:45 am

Posted in High speed rail

One Response

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  1. Your headline says it all. The great plan for the Northern Powerhouse is to grow Manchester at the expense of Liverpool, Leeds et al. There will be agglomeration savings (HS2’s wider economic benefits), but:
    a) How much of the savings manifest as economic growth? In recent years, the private sector has not been reinvesting, preferring to stash cash in tax havens.
    b) To an extent, the savings are costs transferred to employees, as commuter fares. Unless wages rise to cover, the fall in disposable income will reduce consumer demand. And a wage rise is a loss in savings.
    c) How do the losing cities cover the lost business rates? In recent years, Government has allowed cities increased retention of rate revenues, while cutting grants – reducing revenue redistribution.

    While the above is all qualitive, it seems to be a zero-sum game. In recent decades, the UK must have received enormous agglomeration savings due to the transfer of industry to the south-east, yet there’s been no great gain in economic output, wages or quality of life.

    Mike

    March 16, 2016 at 11:15 pm


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