New PM commits the Government to funding high-speed rail on the route between Manchester and Leeds but ignores calls to fund a Liverpool to Manchester link. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said he was “surprised” new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s commitment to high-speed rail excludes Liverpool.
In a speech in Manchester on Saturday, Mr Johnson committed the Government to funding high-speed rail on the Trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).
The announcement was welcomed by Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham but Mr Rotheram said that NPR could only benefit the north if the entire HS3 project – from Liverpool to Hull – was fully funded to the tune of £39bn.
He explained: “Northern Powerhouse Rail is vital to the North’s future economic success, supporting 850,000 new jobs by 2050 and an extra £100bn into the economy. However, in order to achieve these gains, we need a whole network connecting the West to the East, not just one leg of it in isolation as this announcement suggests.
“The Government must understand that the North simply will not accept anything less than a full NPR network and the jury is still out on their commitment to delivering that.
“Given the new PM’s stated enthusiasm for a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal, I’m surprised that building freight capacity via the Port of Liverpool – the North’s main western-facing port – does not seem to be a priority in this announcement.”
Mr Johnson said the full details of the Leeds-Manchester route would be published in the autumn following the review into HS2. He made the announcement at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester.
On Friday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said a future Labour Government would back mr Rotheram multi-billion pound Mersey tidal power project. The Metro Mayor was hoping for a similar commitment to Merseyside from the new PM
He added he was puzzled Liverpool was left out of the NPR announcement, pointing out that the Liverpool – Manchester leg of NPR is by far and away the most readily deliverable section and the one that can be built fastest.
He added: “As a Liverpool city region, we are clear that we only support NPR proposals that deliver the whole network along with HS2 and include a new dedicated twin-track line between Liverpool and Manchester and a new station in Liverpool city centre to accommodate HS2 and NPR trains.”
In response to the announcement, Mr Burnham said: “Finally the people here are getting the focus they deserve from the London-centric political system.”