Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani MP, who is responsible for high-speed rail (HS2), has confirmed that HS2 will integrate with regional transportation programmes, including Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub.
Speaking by video link to the High-Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) annual conference, held this year at Manchester University, she said: “HS2 will increase capacity across our network while improving rail connections between 25 towns and cities. Not only this, but it’s going to help deliver up to 30,000 jobs, revitalise areas and provide economic benefits that will help rebalance the economy.
“Alongside this, NPR will significantly improve connectivity and passenger experience across the North. We are also clear that the North needs both of these projects; it is not either/or – the full benefits of NPR rely on HS2.”
Among the other speakers was Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who reiterated the importance of HS2 to the North, warning Conservative Party leadership candidates that bringing the future of HS2 into question would be politically dangerous.
“The North of England needs to be at the front of the queue for infrastructure spending for the next 25 years,” he said. “After generations of chronic underinvestment, some still expect us to have to choose between HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Why can’t we have both?
“A Conservative leadership candidate seriously planning to question HS2 should consider what that will mean for the North, for rebalancing our national economy, and for boosting jobs and growth in areas that need it most.”
Allan Cook CBE, chairman of HS2, added his voice to the debate: “HS2 is a transformational programme. The investments we have made – and will continue to make in the next two decades – will transform our transport infrastructure for generations. It is an integral part of the UK Industrial Strategy which will help to improve connectivity throughout the UK – utilising the talent and expertise in the Midlands and the North, and building a stronger, more competitive economy.
“The new railway will have a positive environmental impact by taking intercity trains off the existing lines, creating more space for extra commuter trains and reducing freight traffic on our motorways.
“Collaborating closely with Northern Powerhouse Rail, Transport for the North, Network Rail and Midlands Rail Hub, we will create a transport network which will open up the whole country. Travel on our network will be more environmentally friendly, more efficient, more comfortable and more reliable. Businesses will have access to more talent and more open markets, and families and friends will be able to live and work where they choose.”
Representatives from the Midlands and the North came together at the conference to emphasise their support for HS2 and regional transport schemes, as delegates heard from both Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Director at Transport for the North (TfN), and Maria Machancoses, Director at Midlands Connect.
Through the day, the conference heard how HS2 will have a transformative impact on economic prospects in regional economies across the North and the Midlands, improving infrastructure beyond the line of route, and creating new opportunities and lasting jobs and skills.
Isabel Coman, HSRIL director, called for everyone concerned to hold their ground. “We need to keep momentum going for HS2, now more than ever,” she said. “The project has its naysayers. However, their comments quite often suggest a misunderstanding of the project and the vast opportunity it presents. “We need to continue to fight for this project until the very first train rolls off and keep on educating and spreading the message on just how transformational it will be for Britain, particularly in the North and Midlands where their economies’ future growth is depen