Prime Minister says there is ‘strong case to be made’ for Liverpool’s inclusion in High Speed rail network
David Cameron vows to look carefully at campaigners’ arguments for link to be brought to city
David Cameron today said there was a “strong case to be made” for the high speed rail network to be brought to Liverpool – and vowed to look carefully at the arguments made for its inclusion.
Fears have been raised that if, as is currently set to be the case, Liverpool misses out on the proposed High Speed 2 (HS2) network, those benefits will be lost to other cities, with investors turning to the likes of Manchester or Leeds which are on the route.
Mr Cameron said: “Obviously there’s a strong case to be made and it’s quite right for the Liverpool Echo, local MPs, city leaders and others to make that case.”
Liverpool is set for a new era of sea trade with the opening of Peel Port’s £350m Liverpool 2 container berth late next year, which can handle 90% of the world’s container ships.
The city is positioning itself as ‘the port for the north’, but those plans could be jeopardised if Liverpool is not part of the HS2 network, according to campaigners.
Cllr Phil Davies, chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Local Authorities said the scheme only works if there’s a connection between the Liverpool 2 berth and the rest of the north.
But Mr Cameron said: “There’s no doubt that the government is giving real priority to Liverpool with the electrification of the existing line taking place, the expansion of the ports so the Panamax containers can come in to Liverpool, obviously the trans-pennine line that’s being electrified, that will help the connectivity of all the major cities in the north west.
“So there’s no question of Liverpool missing out, it’s how best to capture the benefits from the big investment that’s coming in.”
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.
Small Business, Big Benefits
Director of Aeolian & 20 Miles More
Small businesses in the Liverpool City Region no longer have small ambitions. My business, Aeolian, although having fewer than 10 employees provides strategic IT consultancy to global companies like the Shell, with over 92,000 employees.
The Internet and has greatly helped with this – conference calls and live meetings mean we can work efficiently but not be in the same city let alone office. However, building business requires trust and relationships, and that requires meeting people. I need to meet customers, predominantly outside of the City Region: in London, across the North and in Europe.
Liverpool does suffer from poor rail connections. We are the only major English city with just one train per hour throughout the day to London and we have precious few direct services to other UK cities. If Liverpool is to remain competitive, then we need excellent rail links to the UK’s major cities and also to Manchester Airport.
That’s why HS2 is such an important issue for small businesses like mine. If Liverpool were linked to HS2 then we would have faster, more frequent services to London and Birmingham. Any Liverpool link would almost certainly be the start of an HS3 network, linking us to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and beyond; that’s a market of over 14 million customers and skilled employees. It could also provide a super-fast link to Manchester Airport, linking Liverpool to even more international destinations.
We all know that we can’t rely on roads. Congestion makes travel times excessive and unreliable and it’s a problem that is only going get worse. I find trains a more productive form of travel as I can catch up on work whilst on the move.
Getting a high-speed rail link would greatly boost our local prosperity, by around £400m a year. It would bring 26,000 additional jobs and 20,000 more residents; a massive boost to local businesses.
That’s why I’m in favor of Liverpool being directly linked to the high-speed rail network and back the call for 20 Miles More.
BUILDING A LONG-TERM FUTURE
Chief Executive, Downtown in Business
Despite the fact that the project is one of the most important infrastructure schemes ever proposed for the north of England, there remains a huge amount of apathy from business leaders to the much discussed and debated High Speed 2.
This is largely because the new fast tracks from London to the North are not likely to be laid anytime before 2026, with full completion not due until 2032. Add to that timescale the inevitable delays that seem to accompany every major British infrastructure project, and we’re more likely looking at 2035, by which time many of us will be eligible for a senior citizens rail card – if we’re still here at all.
However, this is to miss the point of how the North and its great cities and regions can market, promote and attract investment.
Speaking to several overseas visitors and potential investors over the past few weeks at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool, and it is interesting to note that they are vaguely curious about the past ten years; certainly interested about the next ten; but most quizzical about what strategies and plans are in place for the next twenty five years.
If you are representing a company that is looking to relocate or establish a major brand in a new city, then it is not unreasonable for you to want to be confident that your investment is being made in a place that has a sustainable, long term future.
This is why the winning of the argument about HS2 is so crucial. And then HS3 on the back of it, to better connect northern cities together.
Getting to London thirty minutes quicker may or may not be a killer HS2 argument for many, but HS3, the ability to then connect Manchester to Leeds on modern, high speed trains and tracks must surely win the approval of any serious business leader in the north.
Whilst London continues to plough hundreds of millions of pounds improving its infrastructure, and is squabbling not about ‘if’ a new airport but ‘where’, there is not a whisper of discontent from the Capitals chattering classes or the Westminster political fixers. Money spent in the south, it seems, is unquestionably well spent.
The nonsense spoken of in terms of the costs surrounding HS2 must be seen as what they are – an antiquated vision of a dilapidated, slow moving north, grateful to be kept afloat by the crumbs from an ever growing, indeed overflowing, South East table.
Of course the renaissance of our big cities in modern times, Leeds, Liverpool and particularly Manchester, has been remarkable. But for us to continue and indeed accelerate the progress of our region, then investment not only in rail, but on our road networks too, is absolutely essential.
HS2 and HS3 may not be here in your lifetime – but those international companies and investors want to be confident that it will be here at some point. And that is why HS2 is important now, and why we must fight enthusiastically for it to be delivered.