Government unveils latest HS2 plans – but will Liverpool be fully connected?

City region campaign for high speed rail – Linking Liverpool – is pushing for a high-speed Liverpool to Manchester line coming directly into a new station in Liverpool city centre. Tony McDonough reports.

Infrastructure projects such as HS2 are essential for growth in the Liverpool city region, business leaders say
A direct HS2 link is essential for growth in the Liverpool city region, business and political leaders say

Business and political leaders in the Liverpool city region remain upbeat about a direct high speed rail link into Liverpool – despite the latest Government announcement making no mention of it.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed, in a statement to Parliament, that HS2 Phase 2b construction plans will make provision to join up north-south HS2 rail infrastructure with west-east Northern Powerhouse Rail to Liverpool.

The Secretary of State confirmed that the ‘Golborne Link’, a section of high speed rail line, linking the two lines will be included in the HS2 Phase 2b construction plan.

This will mean a direct high speed line between Manchester and Crewe with a conventional line running to Lime Street station in Liverpool.

Economic benefits

However, the city region campaign for high speed rail – Linking Liverpool – is pushing for a high-speed Liverpool to Manchester line coming directly into a new station in Liverpool city centre.

That line would be linked directly to the north-south HS2 line. It would cut journey times between Liverpool and Manchester to 21 minutes and between Liverpool and London to just one hour and 15 minutes.

Independent economic evidence commissioned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority claims the economic benefit to the region of direct connection to both west-east and north-south full high speed rail at more than £15bn.

In addition, the research says it could lead to 20,000 new jobs, 10,000 new homes and 2.9m extra visitors a year.

‘We’ll keep pushing’

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has vowed to continue lobbying for the direct high speed link to Liverpool.

He said: “There is still much to do in making sure Government commit to investment in a new station for the city centre and faster journey times to Manchester and London.

“The economic case for delivering full high speed rail for Liverpool city region is huge and that’s why I will continue lobbying for this investment over the next four years as City Mayor, after we have started to see progress.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson says he'll keep lobbying for a direct HS2 link into LIverpool
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson says he’ll keep lobbying for a direct HS2 link into LIverpool

“Earlier this year we wrote along with 13 of our Liverpool city region MPs to the Secretary of State for Transport, the Chancellor and Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission outlining the once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver the huge economic benefits offered by full high speed rail connectivity.

“The Northern Powerhouse Rail programme also has a critically important part to play here, so Transport for the North also made the same ask of Government and it is vitally important that we continue to pursue this work through.”

Asif Hamid, interim chair of Liverpool City Region LEP, added: “This announcement paves the way for the delivery of the extra passenger capacity the Liverpool city region will need for the future along with the freight capacity that will make the most of the investments in our port.”

Divided opinions

HS2 has divided opinion among many people in the Liverpool city region with some favouring investment in current rail infrastructure, considering HS2 to be an expensive vanity project.

However, even many of those opposed to the whole project believe that if HS2 does go ahead then it is essential Liverpool is fully connected.

Andrew McFarlane, director and head of the North West offices of commercial property consultancy Colliers International in Liverpool and Manchester, said: “Connectivity and capacity are key drivers of the economic performance of the North of England.

“The multifarious benefits to be generated by HS2 will prove that as a region, we are indeed stronger when linked together.

“While cutting journey times is important, the Government’s commitment to double the number of trains running between the great cities of the North, the Midlands and the South to some 96 an hour and to triple the number of seats to almost 15,000 an hour will be truly transformational.

“Confirmation of the HS2 routes shows that momentum for major change to revitalise the North over a generation or more continues to build but the next stop on the line has to be a cross-Pennine HS3 rail route linking Liverpool with Hull to ensure the region is fully interconnected.”

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