High Speed line is Liverpool’s big election ask, say city business and academic leaders
50 Liverpool business leaders and the Vice Chancellors of the City Region’s four Universities are today calling on the leaders of the three main political parties to commit to ensuring the city gets a direct High Speed Rail link as a matter of urgency.
Currently neither the HS2 project nor the emerging Transport for the North vision for an East / West HS3 make any commitment to deliver a High Speed rail line into Liverpool.
The Open Letter has been co-ordinated by the independent, business-led 20 Miles More campaign and is signed by leading companies in the freight, professional service, life science, tourism, retail and creative industries sectors along with Universities and major business organisations including the North West Business Leadership Team, FSB, Professional Liverpool, Liverpool BID Company and Downtown Liverpool in Business.
20 Miles More Chairman Andrew Morris commented;
“These are the businesses and institutions that are forging our future economy. The range of signatures demonstrates the breadth of support for a direct High Speed link to the city and how vitally important this is to our future prosperity and success. Liverpool’s economy has always been based on connectivity and pioneering infrastructure. With the massive investment in the new Post-Panamax port facility we desperately need additional rail capacity and better connectivity in order to handle the projected massive growth in freight.”
20 Miles More believes it’s important that the business and economic case is heard and that the political parties are challenged during the election about their commitment to the city and this vital piece of economic investment. Whereas all the parties have been underlining their commitment to economic re-balancing and releasing the potential of Northern cities the issue has not yet surfaced in the General Election campaign
Geoffrey Piper, Chief Executive from the North West Business Leadership Team, is one of many leading business voices backing the campaign. He commented:
“We are strongly committed to the idea of a Northern Powerhouse, but we believe it’s logical for this vision to start here. A high speed rail link from Liverpool to Manchester would not only connect us to HS2 but would be the first leg of a transformational HS3 East / West link as well. If we want the Northern Powerhouse to deliver quickly then we should start by connecting the cities with the strongest economic synergies and highest number of passenger journeys.”
The Open Letter comes ahead of the publication of a major report by the think-tank ResPublica setting out the strategic case for a Liverpool High Speed link. The report commissioned by The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson is likely to include a radical game-changing proposal to underscore Liverpool’s HS2 case. ResPublica Director, Phillip Blond explained:
“Our report provides a comprehensive review of the City Region economy and how it can best realise growth opportunities and potential. As a result we conclude that the case for a direct High Speed line into Liverpool is even more compelling and beneficial to the UK economy.”
The open letter and the High Speed appeal have also been welcomed by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson. He commented:
“I welcome the Open Letter from 20 Miles More and the business community. It is a timely intervention aimed at ensuring the interests and aspirations of the city are heard during this critically important election campaign.”
To view the Open Letter click here
Time for Liverpool & the North to grab the chance for growth
As the last day of MIPIM in Cannes starts on an “Investing in the Northern Powerhouse” note, the north’s five major cities stand together on the brink of a potentially momentous government investment.
Times look like they could be set to change dramatically for connectivity in the northern regions as Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle late last year launched their One North plan.
Under the TransNorth connectivity plan, Liverpool in the west would be connected to the north, south and east by fast and efficient transport, making the Newcastle of tomorrow what second-city Birmingham is to us today, while – should it be given the green light – you can expect to see many more Sheffielders around our city in the years to come. You can also say goodbye to Pacers and traffic jams, and hello to new, revitalised and upgraded city region transport networks that are an asset to businesses from Chester to Barnsley and everywhere inbetween.
With HS2 (the government’s railway into London) being launched to much fanfare about “speed” and luxury, to us in the north it was inevitable that people would soon start making the comparison between the time it takes to get to London today (2 hours, give or take) with the sluggish time it takes to get to Newcastle (following recent improvements, 3 hours), and the decrepit nature of many local trains. The “One North” report is the culmination of the collective public irritation that appears to have struck a chord with local political leaders across the region, and subsequently with a government waking up to the reality that perhaps Adonis’ HS2 as initially sketched didn’t quite cut the mustard for many.
While some might might ask if it was an error not to prioritise these connections in the first place, the main thing that will matter to people in the north is that they do so now.
One North isn’t just an east-west railway line but instead a whole package of infrastructure improvements from the east coast to here in the west, ranging from ports being enabled to help ramp up exports and lower the cost of imports, through to new road interventions, and money ploughed into creating, upgrading and expanding local transport networks. As a major city with a growing SuperPort, and the truly excellent but not-quite-finished Merseyrail network that is yet to reach the city’s airport and eastern suburbs, this really could be something exciting, where – finally – Liverpool gets properly tooled up to perform at its A-game.
Liverpool, as we know, is already a pretty impressive city. So too are Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. And a light bulb seems to have gone on, somewhere, about this string of pearls lacking just a bit of shine and a thread.
From 20 Miles More perspective of course the prime excitement comes from the prospect of hooking Liverpool up to the High Speed rail network through an enhanced connection, meaning more faster trains to more destinations – that connectivity meaning business and jobs. Although this isn’t to say that the other aspects on offer are any less exciting or impactful. It is clear from the One North report that both national and local connectivity need to be delivered together to reap maximum results..
Undoubtedly there’ll be some in the city raising an eyebrow at the government’s formation of “Transport for the North”. The city’s businesses and people alike will certainly want to ensure that Liverpool’s interests are promoted and protected, with Merseytravel always having equal and fair access to resources to carry out their proposals, and true local determination as to what those priorities are (such as our city needing better connections to, and around, our wider area including North Wales). That is devolution, after all.
As to the prize, all of the north’s major cities currently have economic output below the norm, yet even so today collectively form one of Europe’s largest economies. Just taking the north-west’s Greater Manchester and wider Liverpool City Region, combined they each contribute half towards a £100bn in economic output pumped into the UK economy each year. What can we achieve when we enable each other to outperform?
For investors buying into the northern region right now, this represents a strong potential for growth from north to south and east to west. And this is no academic exercise; at the heart of the story behind the north’s present day economic output lie areas – in each and every city – where there is much need for jobs, investment and, fundamentally, for the people born there to have good things to realistically aim for in life. We’ve every incentive to be as invested in this venture emotionally as any business investor has monetarily.
This ambitious plan is a work in progress at this very moment, with the cities working with the government aiming for a March reveal. Word is that they’re not quite there yet with an apparent gap between the government’s “Northern Powerhouse” catchphrases and what it will actually commit to delivering. They will surely get there in the end: These investments aren’t just important to the northern cities, but with economic uplift estimates ranging from £67bn to £130bn (depending on how far the investments go) they’re truly valuable to the whole of the UK.
At the close of MIPIM Cannes 2015 it’s appropriate to talk about this, there being a clear and direct correlation between the government investing for success in our cities and businesses doing likewise. For a chancellor keen to see receipts go up and structural outgoings go down, the low billions asked for seem more like a bargain.
What a Northern Powerhouse could mean for Liverpool
2014 can be characterised as a year of solid growth for the North West. It was also a year when rebalancing the UK regions rose up the political and local agenda, with the North very much the focus of the devolution debate.
Liverpool has fantastic universities who already play a key role in knowledge and innovation; the NW has the highest number of apprenticeships in the country and skills are high on the agenda. With the emergence of the Combined Authority, there is a real appetite for devolved and decentralised powers.
In the following video I talk about how cities and regions need to build their own economic strengths and capabilities – not rivalling London and the South East, but replicating the characteristics that have made them successful. Click here to hear more.
As I talk about in the video, investment in transport infrastructure will play a fundamental role in creating a Northern Powerhouse. The fact it currently takes three and a quarter hours by train to travel about 130 miles between the two ports of Liverpool and Hull, is clearly not good enough and is counterproductive in getting the region to think collectively. While HS3 is a step in the right direction to improving transport links across the North, it is deeply disappointing that Liverpool remains out of the frame for both HS2 and HS3 rail links.
My fear is that without fit-for-purpose transport we will begin to see the emergence of a North-North divide, as secondary locations with poor connectivity struggle to attract business and jobs.
The ingredients are there for economic regeneration but, if investment in transport infrastructure does not extend to Liverpool, the City risks being left in the margins.
For more information please contact Martin Heath on 0151 224 108 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Liverpool link would be a natural start for HS3
20 Miles more, who kick-started Liverpool’s bid for a High Speed rail link, has expressed its concern about the implications of the announcement by Government and HS2 Chair, Sir David Higgins, which sees the city still omitted from the proposed HS2 route in the Rebalancing Britain report.
20 Miles More believes that connecting Liverpool and Manchester under HS2 would then create the obvious starting point for any HS3 proposals to join up the major Northern cities on an East-West line.
Andrew Morris, chair of the business-led 20 Miles More group, explained:
“We were not entirely surprised that there were no new announcements about a potential HS2 link to Liverpool in the announcement. But the proposals for a so-called HS3 East – West link are frankly disappointing. We very much agree with the view expressed by Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson that the idea that Liverpool might not even be part of this investment would be shocking and illogical.”
20 Miles More are due to publish their own report advocating a comprehensive HS3 line starting with a connection between Liverpool and Manchester. Martin Sloman, who co-authored the report with Gareth Parr, commented:
“In terms of existing passenger demand, proximity and economic links it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Liverpool and Manchester are already beginning to function as an embryonic super-city. In terms of population and international connections, via port and airport, they have the critical mass and potential to become a counterweight to London. If HS3 is about re-balancing the UK economy then Liverpool should be vital and not peripheral. Today’s announcement is in danger of unbalancing our regional economies and consolidating prosperity and investment within a narrow spine rather than across the full breadth of the north.”
20 Miles More have pledged to redouble their own campaigning efforts and build the widest possible coalition behind the call for a direct High Speed link to Liverpool.
“We started this campaign with a very simple call for 20 miles of additional track to take HS2 to the UK’s western gateway and one of its fastest growing city economies. That call is now stronger than ever. That link needs to be considered as a next stage of HS2, and not simply an element of HS3 which, at the moment is nothing more than an uncosted aspiration.
`Those 20 miles would then provide the impetus for HS3 and stimulate the creation of a Northern Powerhouse at precisely the point where that potential already exists.”
Click here to see the Rebalancing Britain report
20 Miles More, Joe Anderson and ResPublica take their messages to Labour Party Conference
Speaking at a Labour fringe entitled “From HS2 to HS3: A high speed route to re-balance Britain?” were:
- Shadow Infrastructure Minister Lord Adonis
- Shadow Political and Constitutional Reform Minister Stephen Twigg
- Labour Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson
- ResPublica Director Phillip Blond
The event was hosted by ResPublica. Transport Times Chief Executive Professor David Begg was in the chair.
Opening the meeting, the Chair declared that the result of the Scottish independence referendum and the resulting further pledges on devolution was good for transport policy.
He pointed to the successes of Scotland and London as good examples of transport devolution.
The north of England needed to mobilise and grasp the opportunities posed by constitutional change, the Chair said.
On the subject of constitutional change, he urged the attendees not to pursue the idea of an English assembly, which he believed would end up being dominated by London and the South East.
Instead, the Chair called for power to be devolved to the city regions.
Commencing his remarks, Lord Adonis credited Transport Times with helping to win him over on the case for high speed rail whilst he was in government.
Any English devolution must come with an elected component and this would be integral for any transfer of transport powers, the Shadow Minister said.
Turning to HS2 and HS3, Lord Adonis emphasised that the existing rail network could only be refitted at massive cost.
“This is what you will have to go through unless you invest in new capacity between major conurbations”, he told the meeting.
Lord Adonis called for the major cities of the Midlands and the North to be brought together by HS2.
It would be a transformation if it were possible to travel between key cities in 30 minutes or so, he said.
The original railway had never been built to be connected, being originally designed as a series of freestanding lines to London, the Shadow Minister explained.
HS3 would be “the Crossrail of the North”, Lord Adonis declared.
He noted that the programme of electrification had begun under the last Labour Government and had continued under the Coalition.
“We need transformed connectivity both between northern cities and London and between the key cities”, Lord Adonis remarked.
Noting the importance of building cross-party consensus on big infrastructure projects, he urged Labour to support the Government’s proposals on HS3 if the party believed it would deliver for the North.
By supporting the plans, it would be easy to build support for legislating for the new line, Lord Adonis concluded.
Hailing Labour leader Ed Miliband’s policy of a constitutional convention on the future of the UK, Mr Twigg praised the work of elected city mayors like Joe Anderson.
He supported the case for extending high speed rail to Liverpool, emphasising that it would bring a greater economic impact to the city.
The Shadow Minister approved of the idea of creating a mayoralty for a metropolitan area like Merseyside.
It would be important for Liverpool to share in the enormous benefits that HS2 would eventually bring to the whole country, Mr Twigg declared.
If an elected mayor was good enough for London, then it was good enough for Merseyside, Mr Anderson declared.
He explained that the Core Cities Group had nearly been outflanked on HS2, crediting the success in pushing the project forward due to lobbying by city leaders.
It was important to invest in modernising infrastructure to keep the UK ahead of its competitors, Mr Anderson said.
HS2 only needed to be extended by 20 miles more to connect into Liverpool, he told the fringe.
Mr Anderson said that HS2 could not be delivered without improving east-west connectivity via HS3.
Noting Liverpool’s investment in a super port, the Mayor emphasised that the freight industry viewed rail as viable option for moving goods, particularly as rising diesel prices impacted on travel by road.
He recalled that the case for investment in Liverpool was being made to the highest levels of the Government and the Opposition.
“We need to articulate the case for HS3 to connect the North and ensure that we are not left behind in terms of investment, Mr Anderson said.
“It is not just about the regeneration of the North West. It is about the regeneration of the UK”, he concluded.
“What we desperately need is strategic thinking in the Conservative Party”, Mr Blond said.
He said that a “strong Tory presence” in the north was necessary for the good of the country.
Praising the “northern powerhouse” concept put forward by Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Blond warned that many areas of the country felt abandoned and forgotten.
Left and right had responded to globalisation in the same way and left certain parts of the country to “wither on the vine”, he said.
Mr Blond claimed that the UK was already a divided nation and that fewer people were getting ahead in life.
Labour was ahead of the Conservatives in arguing that there were some failures in modern capitalism, he remarked.
HS2 and HS3 were part of the “crucial answer for rebalancing the UK economy”, Mr Blond declared, but cautioned that it would not solve the problem of low wages and falling living standards.
He believed that the case for HS2 was strengthened by HS3 because the latter would help connect the core northern cities.
If Liverpool did not get high speed rail then it was doomed to become a small, seaside town that was never visited, the ResPublica Director told the meeting.
Mr Blond forecast that the development of the super port in Liverpool and resulting international trade would lead to increased economic benefits.
Rail connections were important to help move this economic benefit across the region and help unlock its potential, he explained.
“If we are interested in rebalancing [the UK economy]… infrastructure that delivers opportunity is the only way to do it”, Mr Blond said.
20 Miles More Director Andrew Morris asked if Liverpool should be connected to a high speed rail network given its economic importance and size.
Responding, Mr Twigg said that economic rebalancing could not be achieved unless Liverpool was included within HS2.
He said it was important to make the case for at all levels of decision making.
“HS3 is pro-poor and pro-north”, Mr Blond added.
He added that there was a risk that Liverpool would not be included within any new proposals for the North.
A proposal for a high speed rail link into the city should be included with the One North report, Mr Blond continued.
The Chair said that many northerners did not appreciate just how powerful a political force they could be if they lobbied together.
Up to 20,000 more people could look to make Liverpool their home if connectivity was improved, Mr Anderson said.
Questioned over the process of further devolution, Mr Twigg was reluctant to go down a regional approach that had been adopted by the last Labour Government.
A representative of Carillon, drawing on her experience of living in the North East, asked if Newcastle and Leeds should be connected by a high speed rail line.
Responding, Mr Anderson did not believe that the Government had either a national or regional transport plan.
“I just want to make the case that we go ahead with HS2 and HS3”, he said.
For every pound spent on transport projects in the north, another nine was spent in London, Mr Blond said.
He suggested that London should have “no right of veto” over infrastructure funding for the North.
Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Alan Pugh asked if HS1 and HS2 should be connected.
The Chair suggested that “a bit of freight line” could connect the two routes.
Later in the meeting, Mr Blond declared that a national infrastructure plan should be driven from a local level.