Scrapping High Speed 2 (HS2) would be a “disaster” for the economy in the Midlands and the North, more than 20 key political and business figures from those regions have warned the Treasury.
They have written to Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss after she confirmed that HS2 will be subject to the government’s Spending Review later this year.
The letter argues that the HS2 scheme is already attracting investment and warns against attempts to stop the project. The letter has been signed by representatives of local authorities, mayors and businesses in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Sheffield and across Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Northumbria.
Among the signatories are West Midlands mayor Andy Street, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake and Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese.
The letter concedes that problems facing local transport networks do exist, but states that “deciding not to proceed with HS2 would hinder, rather than help, efforts to address those challenges”.
It adds: “Altogether, city regions around the route have plans to create nearly 500,000 jobs and add billions to the UK economy. Poor connections following decades of under-investment in the rail network between our major cities have been holding the UK back for far too long.
“In determining the continued value for money of HS2, it is essential that the spending review avoids making false distinctions between investment in local, regional and national transport infrastructure.
“Now, more than ever, we should be proud to build Europe’s largest infrastructure project without delay. Failure to make a clear commitment to the full delivery of HS2 at this time would be a disaster for our regional economies and our national prosperity for decades to come.”
Under present plans, the 528km line will link London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. Stage one of the line is set to open between London and Birmingham in 2026, and the full scheme expected to be completed in 2033.
However, last week a House of Lords committee called for a major rethink of HS2 in order to address “fundamental flaws” with the route and curb the project’s “out of control” costs.
In its report Rethinking High Speed 2, the Lords economic affairs committee raises concerns that overspending on the southern half of HS2 could prevent the northern section from going ahead.
Instead, the report concludes that funding for phase 2 of the project -– connecting Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds – should be ringfenced, as should money for Northern Powerhouse Rail - the cross country line connecting Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.
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