Addressing the House of Commons Mr Johnson said work on HS2, which could ultimately cost more than £100bn, would begin immediately. Tony McDonough reports
Business leaders have hailed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to green light the HS2 rail project as “bold and decisive”.
Addressing the House of Commons Mr Johnson said work on HS2, which could ultimately cost more than £100bn, would begin immediately with estimates that the first trains would run on the London to Birmingham and Crewe route between 2028 and 2031.
However, the second phase to Manchester and Leeds would be assessed while work on phase one was under ways. This was originally due to be up and running by 2032-33 but this has now been pushed back to 2035-40.
Matthew Fell from employers’s group the CBI, said the go-ahead for HS2 was “exactly the sort of bold, decisive action required to inject confidence in the economy”. He added: “It sends the right signal around the world that the UK is open for business.”
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram gave a more cautious welcome to the Prime Minister’s announcement. Mr Johnson also told the Commons he was in favour of the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project which would connect Liverpool to other northern cities – but stopped short of a definite commitment.
Mr Rotheram said: “The Prime Minister’s commitment to deliver HS2 in full today is welcome, but falls short of the full and unequivocal commitment to both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail that the north needs.
“I will continue to push – alongside my fellow Northern leaders – for delivery of the new west-east rail line, fully integrated with HS2, that our city region needs. Improving rail connectivity is vitally important but, for the vast majority of people, transport is not about big national schemes, they want a local transport system they can rely on every day.”
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.
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.
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.”
Henri Murison, director of the 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.
“Creating a delivery vehicle to build High Speed North as an integrated high-speed network North to South and East to West, provides the best way to rebalance our national economy and secure the benefits of shared growth in turn, attracting investment in the shortest possible time.
“This a once-in-a-generation opportunity; to create a truly balanced Britain that works for everyone. Integrating HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is the first step – a bold, decisive, forward-looking step that I am heartened the Government has finally chosen to take as politicians across both major parties here in the north have campaigned with us for.”