Northern business leaders launch their own review of high-speed rail

Leading figures including Bruntwood CEO Chris Oglesby will scrutinise both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and feed into the Government’s Oakervee review. Tony McDonough reports

HS2, high speed rail
The Government is considering whether or not to pull the plug on HS2


Northern business leaders, including Bruntwood chief executive Chris Oglesby, will undertake their own review into high-speed rail as the Government considers whether or not to pull the plug on HS2.

Last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the Oakervee review into the project, which would link London to the North with trains capable of speeds of up to 250mph, with a definite decision on whether to scrap it due by the end of 2019.

Originally projected to cost around £30bn, HS2’s cost has now ballooned to £56bn and there are real fears this could eventually pass £100bn causing the scheme to lose political support among a number of MPs.

However, the announcement caused dismay across the North and particularly in the Liverpool city region where extra rail capacity is seen as essential to maximise the potential of Peel Ports’ £750m container terminal on the Mersey.

The head of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Liverpool BID Company and Downtown in business all said the cancellation of HS2 would be a devastating blow to the region, saying Merseyside could be “left behind”.

There is a broad consensus in the North among business and political leaders that both HS2 and the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project, linking Liverpool with Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull, are essential to future economic prosperity.

Now the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has announced its own Northern Powerhouse review into HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to inform the Oakervee review. Its purpose is to offer a northern perspective and to ensure that the North is properly heard.

It will make “bold and realistic” proposals to support its long-held view, shared by business leaders and politicians across the North, that major infrastructure investment is needed to rebalance the UK’s economy by narrowing the huge gap between what is spent in the North compared to the South.

Bruntwood chief executive Chris Oglesby will take part in the review


The review will be overseen by a panel, including Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Kevin Hollinrake MP, Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Merseyside’s biggest commercial property owner Bruntwood, Yorkshire businesswoman Paula Dillon, and Howard Bernstein, former chief executive of Manchester City Council.

The review will bring together leading voices from across the North – it will scrutinise the case for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and examine how we can create economic growth to make the North as prosperous as the South by promoting investment opportunities and bringing forward skilled job opportunities. 

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The Northern Powerhouse is of critical importance to the future of UK prosperity, and without improving connectivity it will be difficult to address the underlying reasons for our lower productivity.

“In the coming weeks, this group of distinguished leaders and experts from across the North will be addressing the key evidence to ensure that the importance of economic rebalancing is fully understood by those undertaking the Oakervee review.”


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