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Northern Powerhouse pushes HS2 agenda

The Northern Powerhouse has released an independent review of HS2, pre-empting the government’s own review from Doug Oakervee, which is anticipated by the end of this month.

The review calls for more powers for the North and Midlands, allowing it to have more control over the project and enable the true benefits of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to be delivered.

The report warns that cancelling the major infrastructure project without credible and viable alternatives will not deliver the transformational benefits to the UK economy this country so badly needs.

The Northern Powerhouse Independent Review has several recommendations for the project, including:

  • Establish HS2 North – a special purpose vehicle working with the private sector to integrate HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR)
  • Confirming a 20% increase in the transformational economic impact to the North of delivering NPR along with building HS2, with £1 in every £5 generated from building a new East – West line as a result of long-distance journeys onto HS2
  • Warning that only by investing in a new, integrated high-speed network can the historic North-South divide be tackled; upgrades or scrapping HS2 have none of the prerequisites to tackle the UKs geographic imbalance
  • Identifying parts of the new and upgraded line network that can be delivered now including connecting Northern cities to each other – the North will not accept waiting until 2040 for HS2 to connect Northern cities to Birmingham, London, Newcastle and Edinburgh
  • Calling for HS2 North, the review comments that a special purpose vehicle (SPV) on the model of the Olympic Delivery Authority, would allow for complete delivery of the project. HS2 North would be arms-length from government, with private sector delivery partners and Network Rail, overseen by Transport for the North to ensure HS2, NPR and related upgrades are combined efficiently and with maximum value.

In addition, the true scale of benefits to parts of the North are revealed:

  • The potential aggregate GVA prize for the North equates to £1,000Bn between 2035 and 2050. If transport investment unlocks just 10% of this prize it would enable £100bn;
  • In Leeds, by 2050 HS2 will create 50,000 new direct jobs adding £54bn GVA to the regional economy;
  • In Greater Manchester, by 2050 HS2 will create 60,000 new jobs around Piccadilly and Manchester Airport with an additional 37,000 jobs around Crewe station;
  • In Liverpool, by 2050 HS2 direct services via NPR will create an additional 24,000 new jobs.

Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood and member of the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into HS2 said: “Our report highlights that there are a number of significant benefits of HS2 that have been ignored to date in its viability analysis. HS2 will be transformational in equipping the North to thrive in the 4th Industrial Revolution. It delivers massive economic benefits by increasing capacity and speed both between our cities and into them on both new and existing lines. This, in turn, wlll increase access the labour markets for high growth industries and drive productivity; as much in enabling new jobs as improving existing ones. It will drive regeneration in our cities and towns around the stations and beyond, whilst the stations themselves will also be economic engines in their own right.

“Our review panel proposes that the North and Midlands must take control of the nation’s high-speed network. HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – a major priority of Boris Johnson and his government – are completely interlinked and a joined-up approach is required to both and the upgrades to existing lines. Only by delivering an integrated high-speed network right across the North can a Northern Powerhouse vision be truly realised. Further delays and uncertainty are hugely damaging to North, and the country as a whole.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Lead, said: “HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, integrated and with a new Bradford city centre stop, are vital to address the poor transport links between cities in the North and Midlands which have acted as a significant break on our economies. In my own region, this investment will deliver 50,000 additional jobs as well as an annual £600M boost to the UK economy from better connections between Leeds and Birmingham.

“There is not a binary choice between having a long-term investment programme for the existing rail network and the delivery of new infrastructure. Both are required if we are to have the modern reliable rail network the UK needs.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “To truly rebalance Britain, by building the Northern Powerhouse, we need substantially increased capacity on our rail network. The benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 together are greater than either scheme alone and cancellation of either east and/or western leg without a proven and credible alternative could leave us with no way to secure the economic competitiveness we need, which alongside productivity gains, is a pre-requisite of rebalancing the British economy.”

The Northern Powerhouse Independent Review is based on an extensive review of the economic evidence, published alongside economic analysis by Steer Economic Development.

The review has been overseen by a panel of respected leaders, including Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, Kevin Hollinrake MP, the Co-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group, Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood, Paula Dillon, a respected Yorkshire business person with expertise running a global legal business and Howard Bernstein, former Chief Executive of Manchester City Council.

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