Northern business leaders welcome expected Government announcement on Tuesday giving the go ahead to the HS2 high-speed rail scheme linking London, Birmingham and the north. Tony McDonough reports
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give the go-head to HS2 on Tuesday, the BBC is reporting.
Despite the project cost of the high-speed rail project linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds soaring from £56bn to £106bn, the Government sees it as part of its commitment to rebalance the economy.
The report also says the Prime Minister will announce a number of other rail scheme centred around the north and the Midlands. It adds that as work is ongoing on the first phase the Government will seek a review of the second phase covering the north.
It is expected work will begin soon on the first phase which will see a line built between London and Birmingham with an extension to Crewe. A V-shaped connection to Manchester and Leeds is planned for the second stage.
The news will be welcomed by business and political leaders in the Liverpool city region. While much of the coverage has focused on the shorter journey times the real value is seen as being in the overall increased capacity on the rail network. Extra rail capacity is seen as key to maximising the potential of the £750m expansion of the Port of Liverpool.
Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool-based business lobby group Downtown in Business, told LBN: “The Government’s decision is absolutely right. Not only does this provide the country with the infrastructure improvements it so desperately needs and the connectivity across the north that is long overdue, but in the immediate term it provides a much needed boost in confidence and to our construction sector.
“Some people have been obsessed with the projects cost rather than its value. Thankfully the Government have recognised that our creaking railway network was in urgent need of an upgrade. The costs are never to go down- the need is never going away. I am delighted that the project has been given the green light.
“Along with Northern Powerhouse Rail, this investment provides short, medium and long term jobs and economic growth opportunities.”
HS2 will see 400m-long trains, with up to 1,100 seats on each service hitting speeds of up to 250mph. They would run at a frequency of up to 14 times per hour.
Cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull are also hoping for a commitment from the Government to Northern Powerhouse Rail which would include a £39bn east-west high-speed rail link.
Henri Murison, director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, added: “The North’s civic and business leaders have argued tirelessly that major infrastructure investment is so badly needed to provide the extra capacity urgently required on our rail network.
“The Northern Powerhouse Independent Review on HS2 showed when published last year that there were no identified credible alternatives to HS2 and by better integrating the last phase with Northern Powerhouse Rail we will ensure that we get the maximum possible benefits.”
And Chris Oglesby, chief executive of property firm Bruntwood, also said: “Business leaders across the North and Midlands will be breathing a sigh of relief now that HS2 has been green-lit. We cannot afford anymore prevarication or delay as there can be no ‘levelling-up’ of the UK economy without transformational new infrastructure projects outside of London and the South East.”