The Future of Northern Transport ?

Can you imagine a 9 minute journey from Leeds to Manchester? Well, this is not too far from becoming a reality. Direct City Networks has drawn up plans for a line that connects the North area, Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Hull, with a 350mph “magnet levitation” train. It will not use conventional “long trains” but “passenger pods or capsules”, with these pods leaving as often as “every 60 to 90 seconds” (Liverpool Echo). If this train network is really going to be created it may just become the world’s fastest underground system!

The plan consists of a “hover train” that works thanks to magnetic levitation (Maglev), “system where vehicle hover above tracks and are propelled by electrically charged magnets”. This kind of technology is operational in some countries like China, with the world’s fastest commercial train, reaching speeds of 267mph, South Korea and Japan, where in 2015 a Maglev train set a world speed record of 373mph on a test track. Thus, this tech is not new, neither is it the first time it has been considered for the UK “in 2008, UK Ultraspeed suggested a Maglev system linking cities such as Liverpool and London. It was also used on the link from Birmingham International station to the airport” (Manchester Evening News). And interestingly, the origin of this technology can be found in Greater Manchester, where in 1956 Prof. Eric Latihwaite, patented it after a doctoral research at the Manchester University. (Manchester evening News)

It is estimated to cost over £3bn (BBC). Nevertheless, DCN presents positive data as a growth of the GDP by £1.3bn a year and the creation of 48,000 jobs. Daragh Coleman of DCN told the Yorkshire Evening Post, “it could be 75% privately funded, 25% government funded”, and due to this cooperation, it could be functioning in 8 years.

However, there are two important remarks. Firstly, this is supposed to be an alternative for the government’s proposal for a High Speed 3 train connecting Leeds and Manchester, for which it approved “an extra £161 million to accelerate the transformation of the M62, and £75 million to improve other road links across the North including the A66 and A69” (HM Treasury, 2016). Secondly, there is no agreement on whether this is feasible. An industry expert argued that this system will “vaporise” passengers and disregarded it as “laughable”. Besides, the proposal has been submitted to Transport for the North and a spokesman demanded for “substantive additional development work”. (BBC, 6th March 2017).

Hence, the transport system could potentially suffer exciting changes in a few years to come. Linkages in the North will ease amazingly, reducing a journey of an hour long to just 9 minutes. We hope plans will finally be approved and the future of transport and travel in the North can begin to be built.

By Gema Sancho-miñana

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