HS2 axe could cost region billions in lost trade

As the Government ponders axing HS2 north of Birmingham it’s claimed the decision puts the success of Liverpool City Region Freeport at risk and could cost Cheshire alone £2bn a year. Tony McDonough reports

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may axe the northern section of HS2. Image supplied by HS2


Scrapping the HS2 high speed rail line north of Birmingham could cost the Liverpool city region and Cheshire economies billions in lost trade every year, it is claimed.

Work is already under way on the first leg of HS2 between London and Birmingham. In 2021 the Government scrapped the planned eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds.

In March this year it was announced the line between Birmingham and Crewe, and then onto Manchester, would be delayed for at least two years.

Now it is likely the whole project north of Birmingham will be scrapped due to ballooning costs. In 2010 HS2 was projected to cost £33bn. That has risen and is now thought to be north of £100bn.

It is claimed axing the northern leg will severely imact the economies of Merseyside and Cheshire and in particular the Liverpool City Region Freeport.

Political leaders in the North West said the decision would have far-reaching implications for the Northern Powerhouse (NPR) rail project which is designed to link Liverpool and Manchester with Yorkshire.

Government Minister Grant Shapps insists the two projects are separate but Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram rubbished that claim this week in an interview with Times Radio. He has joined with other northen mayors to put pressure on the Government.

He said: “This is not just about HS2. There are huge knock-on effects and ramifications for what we call NPR as well as the existing creaking infrastructure that we have.

“Grant Shapps said the two projects were separate. But we know that is not true because the Prime Minister has admitted the two are intrinsically linked.

“To enhance the economic opportunities in the Liverpool city region we need to get freight onto rail. Without HS2 infrastructure we won’t get NPR and without either of those two things the Freeport and the ability for us to grow trade is lost.”

Cheshire and Warrington’s council leaders and the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership have written to the Prime Minister expressing their “deep concern” over the rumoured cancellation of the HS2 northern section.

In a letter signed by local council leaders and LEP chair Clare Hayward, they say the move would deprive the region’s economy of around £2bn a year in GVA value.

It reiterates the request to meet with Mr Sunak ahead of any further decisions being made on the scheme, to discuss how Cheshire and Warrington councils and the LEP can ensure they are successfully delivered.


Rotheram, Burnham
Steve Rotheram, right, and his Greater Mancnhester counterpart Andy Burnham
Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has so far dodged questions on the future of HS2


Axing the “once in a generation” HS2 project would mean the region fails to realise the potential HS2 brings to “unlock significant housing, employment and productivity gains”, they insisted. They add HS2 has the potential to create 27,000 jobs in the county.

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The letter warns: “Cancellation of HS2 would have a significant impact on private sector confidence in Cheshire and Warrington and throw away the opportunities the line offers to grow the economy and level up under-performing parts of the north.

“…History has shown time and again that committing to investment in major infrastructure pays dividends.

“While large-scale projects will always be challenging to deliver, they bring significant long-term economic benefits.  It is essential, therefore, that HS2 and NPR are delivered in full as quickly as possible.”

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