The prime minister has reaffirmed her commitment to delivering HS2 in full and is expecting Royal Assent to Phase 2a at some point this year, despite drawn out Brexit negotiations which continue to dominate government proceedings.
It comes after more than 40 business and civic leaders wrote to Theresa May at the start of the year seeking commitment to the northern arm of HS2. The open letter organised by Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Core Cities UK called for cross-party support to deliver HS2 in full.
Those behind the letter urged leaders from the major political parties 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.
In her letter to Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and the Midlands Engine, the prime minister says the government “remains committed to delivering the whole of HS2 Phase 2” and expects Phase 2a to achieve Royal Assent at the end of 2019, subject to the Parliamentary calendar.
May added: “You will no doubt be aware that 2019 will be another busy year for HS2. We also expect to consult on a number of potential Phase 2b changes later this year to seek views on possible adjustments to the route itself. The government recognises the benefits of a fully integrated rail network and, for this reason, it is essential that any changes support Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Connect.”
She also took the time to thank the various transport bodies and leaders for all their hard work that is being put into the growth strategies across the Midlands and the North and that ministers would continue to work closely to ensure the project meets their aspirations.
HS2 Phase One is scheduled to connect London to the west Midlands and received Royal Assent in 2017 with construction already underway. The letter sent in January used this 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.
Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and the Midlands Engine, has said that securing cross-party support to deliver HS2 in its entirety is “essential to the economic futures of the Midlands and the north” with the East Midlands alone able to create 74,000 new jobs as a result of HS2.