20 Miles More, Joe Anderson and ResPublica take their messages to Conservative Party Conference
Speaking at a Conservative fringe event entitled ‘From HS2 to HS3: A high speed route to re-balance Britain?’ were:
- Conservative Universities, Cities and Science Minister Greg Clark
- Conservative Government Transport Spokesperson peer Lord Popat
- Labour Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson
- ResPublica Director Phillip Blond
The event was hosted by ResPublica with Adam Hewitt from Rail Technology Magazine in the chair.
First to speak, Mr Blond argued that HS2 and HS3 mattered because the state and economy had failed, particularly for the north of the country.
He said that it was no coincidence that regions in Scotland where unemployment was above average had voted for independence. There was “a disconnect” there, and the same applied to the North of England, he believed.
London was one of the most important global cities, he declared, but it had done terrible damage to other areas of the UK. Most of the country had been built on an equitable model, but this had led to a postcode lottery, he said.
Continuing, Mr Blond said that the country had failed to create the same prosperity for northern regions that it had for those in the south east.
He suggested that people in the north were “living lives of quiet desperation as things got worse”, arguing that there was a strong need for a new economic settlement for the north of England.
Citing a new ResPublica publication, Devo Max – Devo Manc, he called for the state to finally deliver for those people in the north who relied on it. It was vital to create economic opportunities in those regions, he argued.
A new economic model in the north would have to be led by infrastructure, he contended, and might eliminate the sense that children had to leave those regions for London in order to succeed in their ambitions.
Britain’s second tier cities performed far worse than those in countries in the rest of Europe, he explained. Comparing Marseille to Manchester, he argued that this needed to be urgently addressed.
Asking what should be done, he suggested that best course of action was to build HS3. There must be a new link between Hull and Liverpool, he declared.
If it was not constructed, he believed that there would be a huge drain on northern cities.
Continuing, Mr Blond said that there should be a direct high speed link to the port of Liverpool, linking the city and the rest of the UK to Ireland. This was also important because, as the canal was widened, traffic there was due to quadruple.
Construction on the link should be started between Liverpool and Manchester, he suggested, as this was the “most compelling branch of the line”. This held, he claimed, even with the most pessimistic figures predicting its likely economic benefits.
“We need a northern super-city”, he said, and the best location for this was between Liverpool and Manchester.
Mr Blond, continuing his argument, explained that this would help create a more balanced economy.
Adding to this, he pointed out that building the northern part of HS2 or HS3 first made sense because it would be cheapest segment.
Describing Dr Clark as “a lone visionary” about the type of cities Britain needed to create in the north, he suggested that this would benefit the south east also, as it would redress overcrowding.
Concluding, he said that a new constitutional offer, including devolution within England, was desperately needed, especially if the Conservative Party did not want to create another region, after Scotland, which it was almost completely alienated from.
The north of England could decide the next General Election, he concluded.
Opening, Dr Clark joked that he was expecting Labour Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson to defect to the Conservatives. He described how Liverpool was unique as a city, and had different needs from Britain’s other “great cities”.
These needed to be reflected in how these cities were governed, he believed, due to their political, cultural and industrial differences.
He noted that the new mayoralty had helped Liverpool secure the International Festival for Business 2014.
Dr Clark described the business festival as a tremendous success – one which had put the city on the map as somewhere to do business.
Continuing, he said that Mr Anderson was now undertaking the same role as London Mayor Boris Johnson, representing his city democratically and bringing its interests to Westminster.
It was important to create new, deeper connections among the northern cities, he said.
Concluding, Dr Clark argued that if “the glories of these great cities” could be brought together through better transport infrastructure, then they could be a serious rival to London as a great British hub.
Next to speak, Lord Popat suggested that the UK was not good at building transport infrastructure, despite its large economy.
HS2 was about capacity and growth, he argued, and that although it would cost £42bn, it was a worthwhile investment.
Continuing, he said that the Government had a strong record on delivery, Crossrail for example, but that more could be done.
Turning to exports, he said that Britain had a shortfall that effected its financial position, and was borrowing more money as a result.
Lord Popat hailed the potential of Britain’s northern cities, indicating that it would be beneficial for HS3 to arrive as soon as possible to help balance the economy and generate more exports.
Britain needed a new industrial policy that had infrastructure at its centre, as this was the only way to rebalance the economy, he said.
Next to speak, Mr Anderson paid tribute to Dr Clark for delivering Liverpool’s City Deal. Progressive politicians from all the major parties understood that further devolution to major cities was integral, he said.
He explained that there would be millions of pounds worth of new business as a result of the International Festival for Business that had taken place that summer.
Mr Anderson said that cities were like magnets: they sucked in people and capital from their surroundings. It was therefore important, he believed, that they were all given power in order to avoid an unbalanced economy.
Continuing, he said that a strong north was also good for the south, as it was good for Britain plc.
Turning to HS2, Mr Anderson said that he went against Labour on the project. He believed that it was good that it was being debated, as it allowed the party to talk about HS3.
There was a real need for connectivity, he declared. While there should be a discussion about devolution, it was also incumbent on political parties to help regenerate and grow the UK as a whole to prevent further disconnect between the electorate and Westminster.
Mr Anderson said that HS3 was an economic “no brainer” and the expected benefits were obvious to all.
He pointed out that so much money would be invested in the project in the area that it would make “absolutely no sense” to not put in the extra 20 miles of track to Crew.
Moving on, he described the opportunity to increase capacity for large freight, saying this would benefit Liverpool and the rest of the UK.
It was imperative that Liverpool was able to move the amount of freight entering the city, which was set to quadruple.
The first questioner commented that the trains used on HS2 and HS3 should not be designed as if they were “planes on a track”.
Lord Popat assured him that time would be taken to get the designs of trains correct.
Next, the panel was asked what was being done to relieve pressure on roads.
In reply, Mr Anderson said that both parties were failing to deliver transport infrastructure plans that were joined-up across both rail and road.
Adding to this, Lord Popat said that £136m had been invested in roads, and that more would follow in the years to come.
Mr Blond then that every city would want to be connected to the high speed network, so that it was important to redesign the route so that it would be “future proof”. Otherwise, it might not be extendable to Bristol and Liverpool and other cities.
Continuing, he argued that it was vital that the right tax incentives were introduced to propel the project forward. Innovative thinking could help dramatically slash the cost of this infrastructure, he claimed.
A Cheshire East Councillor then asked whether construction on the new project should start at Crewe, rather than elsewhere. She argued that this would help speed the process up.
In reply, Mr Blond said that he was “route agnostic”, and what he really wanted was a commitment to the project.
He announced that ResPublica was going to work with both Labour and Conservative MPs and ministers to generate support for the project, suggesting that this was an opportunity to win political support in the north.
Responding to a question on how Liverpool could help retain its ambitious young people, Mr Anderson suggested that controlling its own business rates would be start.
He also called on the city to be able to run its own employment programmes, as those in the city knew where the greatest growth was occurring. This model was common across the world and the UK should follow, he argued.
Closing the session, Mr Blond said that ResPublica had produced a comprehensive report on devolution, which could help create self-sustaining cities and prosperity.
Arguing that more autonomous cities were more prosperous, he called for direct elections in new authorities so that mayors could stand or fall by their promises.
Adding to this, Mr Anderson said that he sympathised with calls for further devolution, as it improved accountability. He argued that there needed to be fully professional regional government structures, as it made no sense for part-time councillors to be in control of billions of pounds of public spending.
Liverpool Mayor bangs the drum for HS2 at Conservative party conference in Birmingham
Liverpool Mayor and Labour icon Joe Anderson strode into the Conservative party conference in Birmingham yesterday to make the case for the city joining the planned high speed rail network.
At a packed fringe session the mayor banged the drum for a 20-mile fast connection between Crewe and Liverpool.
He said: “Economically, it’s a no-brainer. It is absolutely there for everybody to see in terms of growth, the number of jobs, GVA…
“It’s absolutely madness not to consider it.”
Mr Anderson said the massive expansion in the capacity of Liverpool’s port made the case for better transport connections even more urgent.
He said: “We are investing as we speak £320m in a super-port [so] we will be able to accommodate the biggest ships that come into our country in the North West… It’s about connecting to Edinburgh, it’s about connecting to Glasgow, it’s about making our great cities connected.”
He challenged the Conservatives in the packed hotel room and “progressives in all parties” to champion the case for high-speed rail links.
Mr Anderson said the investment in Liverpool’s port would create more than 5,000 jobs and “quadruple” the amount of freight that comes into the city.
He said: “We’ve got to get it out. We’ve got to make sure that we’re able to transport that…
“For me the case for HS3 and HS2 is overwhelming.”
Phillip Blond, the founder of the Respublica think tank which hosted the event, stressed the need for infrastructure investment, saying: “There’s no economic offer that can transform the North unless it’s led by infrastructure… It’s imperative and vitally important to the future of the north of this country that we have high-speed rail going from Liverpool to Hull.
“If we can create that, that makes everything else worthwhile. Otherwise, if we just build HS2 as currently planned, what it will be is a valley that draws all the water from all the economies surrounding it.”
Conservative Cities minister Greg Clark paid tribute to Mr Anderson’s achievements as Liverpool’s first elected mayor.
He said: “The establishment of the Mayor of London has resulted in a new spring in the step of that city.”
Liverpool Businesses’ call for better transport infrastructure
Improving transport infrastructure in the North West would help the most in making the region a better place to do business, according to the findings of the inaugural EY Regional Response.
The poll questioned Insider readers on what they felt would bring the most benefits, with 42.6 per cent saying greater investment in transport infrastructure would provide the biggest boost.
In second place was offering better business support initiatives (19.7 per cent), greater investment in skills was third (14.8 per cent) while 11.5 per cent thought sector-focused business hubs could help the most.
Closer working relationship between the public and private sector polled 6.6 per cent and greater support for exports was at 4.9 per cent.
The majority of respondents said extending the planned HS2 rail network to Liverpool could be vital in ensuring the region remains an attractive place to do business.
Currently, the proposed HS2 route – known as the ‘Y’ extension which will branch off from Birmingham to the North West and Yorkshire – does not go through Liverpool. Instead the city would be joined up with the high-speed line via a connection from the West Coast Mainline at Crewe.
But the 20 Miles More campaign, established by a group of business leaders, has claimed an extension of the HS2 line could generate £8bn for the Liverpool city region’s economy over the next 20 years.
Insider news editor David Casey said: “The results of the first EY Regional Response shows that businesses clearly feel improving transport links will be key to the region’s future as a location to do business.
“Schemes such as the £600m Northern Hub, which will improve rail links across the north, are vital but companies need investments like this to happen faster.
“HS2 will bring about a welcome change but the scheduled completion date for isn’t until 2032 – by that time the North West could already have been left behind by its UK and international rivals.”
Earlier this year, North West Business Insider launched a campaign to call for the delivery of HS2 to be brought forward, backed by ten high-profile business including Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson.
CITIES PLEA FOR INCLUSION IN OSBORNE’S HS3 PLAN
Local leaders are clamouring for connection to a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds, after chancellor George Osborne announced plans yesterday.
Mr Osborne told an audience in Manchester that he was only ‘starting the conversation’ about the High Speed 3 (HS3) project, admitting that plans for the high speed rail connection have not yet been set in concrete.
While emphasising that he only wanted the UK to ‘start thinking about’ the project, the chancellor said his proposed route should feed in to David Higgins’ review of the second phase of HS2.
Cities across the north of England seized on Osborne’s proposals, immediately putting pressure on the Government to widen the scope and include more cities in any HS3 line.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson – whose work on City Deals was name-checked in Osborne’s speech – said the early phases of any link ‘must’ be established in his city.
‘I welcome Mr Osborne’s comments but we will be pressing home our conviction that the first phase of this East / West link can be and must be from Liverpool,’ Mr Anderson said.
‘It is an affordable piece of investment that will guarantee a massive financial return as well as beginning the vitally important task of connecting our great Northern cities.’
Business campaign group 20 Miles More said Osborne’s plan ‘strengthened’ the ‘compelling’ argument for a direct HS2 connection to Liverpool. Their calls followed a commitment from the Liverpool City Region to continue lobbying for inclusion on the London to Birmingham route.
Further pressure on the Government came from Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which said its city remained the ‘only missing piece in the jigsaw’ for Osborne’s HS3 plan.
‘The Government has already invested heavily in our Powerhouse Central City Deal. It makes sense to plug the city into the High Speed Rail network to maximise the value of that investment,’ council leader Mohammed Pervez said.
‘An east-west HS3 link would cement into place this super-regional concept. The Stoke Route would maximise the economic output of the new national powerhouse by including the largest urban area between Birmingham and Manchester.’
Pervez confirmed he would be writing to the chancellor to reiterate the region’s plans for an HS2 station.
HS2 LIVERPOOL LINK ‘WOULD BE START OF HS3’
Chancellor George Osborne this week mooted the idea of a rapid rail line between Manchester and Leeds, the two cities at the end of the current proposed route for HS2.
Andrew Morris, chair of campaign group 20 Miles More, said extending HS2 to Merseyside would create a more impressive HS3 in due course.
“Mr Osborne’s comments are an endorsement of the case we have been making over the last six months about the logic of an east-west connection,” said Morris.
“This strengthens an already compelling argument for a direct HS2 connection to Liverpool. Not only is the Liverpool link vital to the economic success of HS2 itself but it will create the first stage for a potential HS3.”