“Back it, build it, benefit from it” – that is the message being sent to party leaders in an open letter signed by more than 40 business and civic leaders who are seeking commitment to the northern arm of HS2.
The open letter organised by Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Core Cities UK calls for cross-party support to deliver HS2 in full, from the west Midlands to the east Midlands, Manchester and Leeds.
The letter which has been published today is co-signed by leaders across the Midlands and the North, including Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Engine/Midlands Connect, Elizabeth Fagan, managing director of Boots UK and Charlie Cornish, group chief executive of the Manchester Airports Group.
Those behind the letter are urging leaders Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable and Nicola Sturgeon to offer their “unwavering support to the project”, believing the network is the only way to ensure the country benefits fully from a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to drive regional economic growth and rebalance the economy.
HS2 phase one is scheduled to connect London to the west Midlands and received Royal Assent in 2017 with construction underway. Leaders use phase one development as the basis for success with the government’s own statistics showing that the high-speed railway is already supporting over 7,000 jobs and this is forecast to reach around 15,000 by 2020.
Phases 2a and 2b, connecting the west Midlands to the east Midlands, Crewe, Manchester, south Yorkshire and Leeds, still require parliamentary backing to proceed. Phase 2a is scheduled to receive Royal Assent before the end of 2019, with Phase 2b following in early 2023.
A snapshot of the open letter states:
“HS2 Phase Two will extend the benefits of this vital piece of infrastructure to more than 25 million people – over a third of the UK’s population – across the East Midlands, the North and Scotland. These people and places should not be denied the job and growth opportunities that HS2 brings. It must continue beyond Birmingham.
“Our support must not flounder or stall. We must unite to deliver HS2 in full, and we urge you to join us by offering your vocal and unwavering support. Help make HS2 happen for everyone, and help us all achieve our full potential. To our party leaders we say – back it, build it, benefit from it.”
The open letter comes as MPs, business and civic leaders from across the country unite today (24 January) for a parliamentary reception at Westminster to intensify their support for HS2. They will be joined by Allan Cook in his first public engagement as chairman of HS2.
Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said: “Securing unequivocal, cross-party support to deliver HS2 in its entirety is essential to the economic futures of the Midlands and the North. The East Midlands alone stands to create 74,000 new jobs as a result of HS2; reaffirming the promise of this investment will catalyse growth and business confidence during a crucial transitional period for the country. We can’t afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”