Liverpool city region will be ‘left behind’ if HS2 is scrapped, say business leaders

Government to decide by the end of 2019 whether to scrap the high-speed rail project – but Merseyside business leaders we could be ‘left behind’ if HS2 doesn’t go ahead. Tony McDonough reports

HS2, high speed rail
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says HS2 could be scrapped by the end of the year


Spiralling costs could see the HS2 high-speed rail project scrapped by the end of the year – sparking dismay among Liverpool city region business leaders.

On Wednesday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a review into the project, which would link London to the North with trains capable of speeds of up to 250mph, with a definite decision due by the end of 2019.

Billions of pounds have already been spent on HS2 with phase one, linking London and Birmingham, due to open at the end of 2026 and the second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33.

The original projected cost of the project was around £32bn but this has already ballooned to £56bn with HS2 admitting earlier this year that the eventual figure could come close to £90bn.

Lower speeds

Liverpool was already at odds with the Government over the fact the high speed line would not be extended directly into Liverpool Lime Street. Instead a spur from Cheshire to Liverpool would carry the trains at lower speeds and lower frequencies.

High-speed rail, via HS2 to the South, and vis HS3 across the North, is seen as essential for Merseyside’s future prosperity offering both increased passenger capacity and more capacity for freight, maximising the potential of the Port of Liverpool’s £750m Liverpool2 container terminal.

Paul Cherpeau
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Picture by Gareth Jones


Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said the decision to launch the review into HS2 was “disappointing” saying that HS2 alongside Northern Powerhouse Rail offered “unprecedented opportunities for people and businesses”.

He added: “At Liverpool Chamber our business members tell us the current infrastructure is hampering them and that they need better access to markets, goods, and services. By delivering new, dedicated express routes between cities, HS2 will provide much-needed capacity to Britain’s rail network and free up space for local and freight services on existing lines. 

READ MORE: Liverpool and the North miss out on £66bn of transport spending

“The delivery of other transformational schemes, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, rely on the connections that HS2 will make. HS2’s importance goes far beyond train services. Its anticipated completion is already attracting investors and will continue to attract investment to surrounding areas, rejuvenate local economies and create opportunities for businesses across the supply chain.”

Uncertainty and frustration

Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, which represents the interests of 1,500 businesses in Liverpool city centre, hit out at the ongoing “indecisiveness” of the Government over HS2.

He explained: “This latest announcement once again spreads doubt, uncertainty and frustration among business leaders in the north, particularly across Liverpool city region who have had to shout louder than anyone to get the Government to listen to the strong and convincing case that HS2 without Liverpool is nothing short of lunacy.

Port of Liverpool
The Liverpool2 container terminal at the Port of Liverpool would benefit from high-speed rail


“As I have said several times, for the north to become the economic powerhouse that it can, there has to be a continued investment into a solid connectivity plan for our city region – home to one of Europe’s most advanced container ports. Following the Transport Secretary’s disappointing announcement today, my real fear now is that come the end of the year Liverpool City Region will be left behind.”

And Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobby group Downtown in Business, said any decision to scrap HS2 would be “wrongheaded and smack of short-termism”.

He added: “The reason for the significant cost is that infrastructure outside of our capital has been woefully neglected for far too many years. Only this project addresses the inadequacies and inequities that currently exist on our rail network, and offer some genuine rocket fuel to the Midlands Engine and the Northern Powerhouse.

“Sadly, like many issues being considered by our political leaders at the moment, short term gain for long term pain appears to be an acceptable strategy. I hope business leaders from across the country  lobby government to keep HS2 on track.”

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