Business and political leaders in the north of England have welcomed the government’s decision to press ahead in full with HS2.
A combination of metro mayors, civic leaders and business groups had all tirelessly argued for HS2 to be delivered in full, and are continuing to campaign for other vital infrastructure investment to help rebalance the national economy.
Henri Murison, director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “This a once-in-a-generation opportunity; to create a truly balanced Britain that works for everyone. Integrating HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is the first step - a bold, decisive, forward-looking step that I am heartened the government has finally chosen to take as politicians across both major parties here in the north have campaigned with us for.”
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: "The prime minister has today listened and gone a considerable distance towards the case I made at the weekend for a new, integrated east- west-north-south railway for the north of England. That is why I welcome what he has announced today.”
Burnham, however, also highlighted a number of issues where he was seeking further clarification, including a redesign of Manchester Piccadilly station, and construction, timetable and route commitments to Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“Big promises on future infrastructure must not distract from the need to urgently upgrade our creaking Victorian railway, which is ruining journeys on a daily basis. The creation of two new platforms at Piccadilly is a shovel ready project that will benefit the whole north. The government needs to stop dragging its feet on this and get these platforms built," said Burnham.
Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield city region, said: “I welcome today’s announcement from the prime minister. HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are crucial to level up the economy and provide vital upgrades to our creaking Victorian infrastructure. We must ensure they benefit south Yorkshire and unlock prosperity and better connectivity right across our region.
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds city council and West Yorkshire combined authority transport lead, said: “HS2 is a critical component of our established plans to transform the region, so we very much welcome the government’s go-ahead to deliver the project in full today. The eastern leg alone would be worth £600m in annual benefits to the UK economy.
“We remain unequivocal in our clear commitment that HS2 needs to be delivered in full as part of an integrated network with Northern Powerhouse Rail from Liverpool to Hull with improved connectivity to south and east Yorkshire, as well as an upgraded trans-Pennine route to truly transform connectivity, attract investment, and level-up communities across the north and the whole of the country.”
Jonathan Walker, assistant director of policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have campaigned for HS2 to be approved and delivered as our members urgently need fast and reliable connections to their customers around the region and the rest of the country. The decision to progress this substantial rail project is great news for the north east. Any review of the later phases must be used to ensure HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and East Coast Mainline are integrated properly, rather than as seen as a chance for further delays.”
Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: “The green light to get on and build HS2 is the right decision for the UK. It is an ambitious and significant step forward in releasing the northern economy from the straightjacket of poor infrastructure that has held it back for so long.
“The powerful combination of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will transform the rail legacy left by the Victorians, now creaking under the strain of demand. That’s east-west and north-south connections for our 15 million people and businesses. That the prime minister has stated clearly that this isn’t a choice between one or the other is a giant leap forward, something our northern leaders have been steadfast on.
“Building on this ambitious step today, we want to see full commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail in the National Infrastructure Strategy due to be published on budget day - the most transformational solution connecting our major towns and cities from Liverpool to Hull and the north east. Doing so would slash journey times in the north, spark economic growth and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. Crucially, the decisions must now be led by the north.”