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Connecting the Northern Powerhouse

by Shane Gould, Government Advice Team, Historic England

The North of England is lacking spare transport capacity to accommodate economic growth. Rail journey times are slow and the road network is becoming increasingly congested. Improving connectivity lies at the heart of the Government's plans for a Northern Powerhouse.

£13 billion is to be invested in transport in the North during the course of this parliament. This is in addition to investment in High Speed 2, £161 million to speed up transformation of the M62 into smart motorway and £60m development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Earlier this year Government and the North's local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) published the Northern Transport Strategy.

A number of projects are underway or about to start soon:

  • A1 upgrade to complete the motorway corridor all the way from Newcastle to London
  • Upgrades to the Trans-Pennine route, cutting journey times between Manchester and York (via Leeds)
  • Northern Hub rail scheme which will provide services around Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester. These include the Ordsall Chord and two new through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly
  • Upgrading the M1 to become a smart motorway between Junction 32 and 35a in South Yorkshire
  • Improving A556 trunk road between Knutsford and Bowdon to a create modern dual carriageway

Government confirmed in the Autumn Statement that the Manchester M60 North West Quadrant and Pennines A66 improvements will be included in next Roads Investment Strategy.Other routes across the Pennines, such as a proposed Trans-Pennine Tunnel, remain under consideration.

Government has also announced its preferred route for High Speed 2 Phase 2b, from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds.

Transport for the North (TfN) was created in 2014. By early 2017 it will be established as the first sub-national transport body to advise on strategic transport decisions and priorities. It includes representatives from the northern combined authorities, local transport authorities and LEPs, Department for Transport, Highways England, High Speed 2 and Network Rail.

TfN is currently identifying other areas where it may be necessary to upgrade the existing network or build new infrastructure. Its assessment is taking into account the 'High Speed North' report published in March 2016 by the National Infrastructure Commission. The Government will also continue working with TfN to develop options for Northern Powerhouse Rail. The next steps will be announced in 2017.

But what does this major investment in transport infrastructure mean for our heritage? Below are brief case studies of three schemes that Historic England is involved in.

High Speed 2 (HS2) Phase 2b

by Rosamund Worrall, National Planning and Conservation Department, East Midlands and West, Historic England

As mentioned above, Sir David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd, set out various options and an overall recommendation for the HS2 scheme in the South Yorkshire area in July 2016. This went out for public consultation in November 2016.

Historic England is expecting to maintain previously raised concerns about the impact of the route on the Doe Lea valley. Hardwick Hall, Bolsover Castle and Sutton Scarsdale Hall, all Grade I listed sites would be affected. In addition, we’ll be considering the impact of the revisions to the preferred route which affect different areas and heritage assets to those previously looked at. Significant amendments to the previous route are proposed in north west Leicestershire, Long Eaton, the South Yorkshire area and at Manchester Piccadilly. The current consultation is open until March 2017.

View east from within the Doe Lea valley towards Hardwick Hall
View east from within the Doe Lea valley towards Hardwick Hall (new and old). HS2 would run to the east of the M1 which can be seen in the mid-ground © Historic England

The Ordsall Chord, Manchester

by Andrew Davison, National Planning and Conservation Department, North West, Historic England

The Ordsall Chord is a new line of railway, to the west of the city centre. It will allow train services from north and east of Manchester to run direct to Manchester Airport without reversing at Piccadilly station. The new line crosses the River Irwell on a 'Network Arch' just to the west of the former Liverpool Road station (now the Museum of Science and Industry). When the Ordsall Chord is built, the oldest surviving inter-city terminus in the world will be cut off from its access to the national rail network. At the same time, a number of listed bridges and viaducts will be demolished or damaged.

The scheme was given approval following a public inquiry, at which Historic England raised these objections. As mitigation for the substantial harm which the development is causing, Network Rail is committed to a programme of conservation and presentation of some historic railway structures. Most important of these is the Grade I listed 'Stephenson's Bridge' of 1828-30, which carried the railway westwards over the River Irwell from Liverpool Road station. Historic England is advising Network Rail on the conservation programme.

Stephenson bridge
The east face of Stephenson Bridge, Manchester © Historic England

Enhancing infrastructure and understanding place: upgrading the A1 through North Yorkshire

by Neil Redfern, National Planning and Conservation Department, Yorkshire, Historic England

Historic England has been working with Highways England for the last 20 years on the implications of widening the A1 in Yorkshire.

There have been major archaeological excavations at Healam Bridge, Catterick and Bainesse, Ferrybridge, Micklefield and the discovery of substantial Roman deposits at Scotch Corner.

Simply put, the works have recovered the most substantial evidence to date of Roman activity in the North of England. This has also been the largest north-south linear investigation of the Roman frontier landscape in North-West Europe.

In particular, the current works between Leeming and Barton identified several sites of immense importance. The sites will directly contribute to our understanding of the establishment, consolidation and final retreat of Roman occupation and its influence in the North of England. For example, the largest assemblage of late Iron Age coin moulds in the UK has been recovered from a site at Scotch Corner. Meanwhile a Roman cemetery excavated at Bainesse was found to contain the largest number of Roman burials in the North of England.

The outstanding quality of the archaeological remains identified as a result of this road scheme raises broader questions about the design and implementation of major archaeological works in national infrastructure projects, including both opportunities and challenges.

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