Prime minister Theresa May has reaffirmed her support for the High Speed 2 (HS2) project, in response to an open letter from concerned leaders in the Midlands and the North.
The renewed support came in response to a letter sent by Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine chairman Sir John Peace and signed by 40 other prominent figures urging party leaders to offer their unwavering support to the project.
In her written response May said she welcomed their continued support for HS2 and recognised the extent of the benefits the project was already having.
She went on to say that the government remained “committed to delivering the whole of HS2 phase 2” and would continue to work to ensure the project met the project supporters’ growth and regeneration aspirations.
Legislation to enable construction of Phase 2a, linking the West Midlands, Crewe and Manchester, is expected to achieve Royal Assent at the end of 2019.
The letter from the business and civic leaders was sent to the prime minister in January. Signatories included Peace, Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram, Leeds City Council leader and chair of core cities Judith Blake, Manchester Airports Group chief executive Charlie Cornish, the managing directors of East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport, as well as executives from retailer Boots, bank HSBC, management consultants PwC and contractor Mace.
May’s letter was published at a parliamentary reception, at which transport secretary Chris Grayling said a failure to deliver High Speed 2 beyond Birmingham would be “a dereliction of our duties to improve the life chances of everyone in this country, an abandonment of our ambition for one of the most extraordinary engineering projects since the Victorian age and a huge betrayal of the people in the Midlands and the North.”
Responding to May’s letter, Peace said that the government had sent the Midlands and the North a strong, positive message, that “HS2 is happening”.
“HS2 is already a huge catalyst for growth, and it supports major upgrades to the existing rail network through the work of Midlands Connect and Northern Powerhouse Rail,” said Peace.
“During a crucial transitional period for the country, and with the Comprehensive Spending Review due this autumn, it is our responsibility as business and civic leaders to keep making the case for HS2.
“It is essential to the economic futures of the Midlands and the North, and we are building our growth plans around it. Now is not the time to falter.”
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