Following the government’s decision to re-evaluate the viability of HS2, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership is to carry out its own review into the HS2 rail link and its own Northern Rail project, HS3, to ensure the region’s views on the scheme are not ignored.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced last week that he had ordered a review into the £56bn scheme, raising fears that the scheme could be abandoned after projected costs escalated.
Could this mean that time and money would be re-focused on building a high-speed line connecting Liverpool with Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull – a scheme previously in the pipeline, but something of a HS2 afterthought?
The Northern Powerhouse, created by former Chancellor George Osborne and comprising of business and political leaders in the North to lobby government on such issues, will make proposals to support its long-held view that major infrastructure investment is needed to rebalance the UK’s economy by narrowing the gap in spending on the North compared to the South.
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said:
“The Northern Powerhouse is of critical importance to the future of UK prosperity, and without improving connectivity it will be difficult to address the underlying reasons for our lower productivity.
“In the coming weeks, this group of distinguished leaders and experts from across the North will be addressing the key evidence to ensure that the importance of economic rebalancing is fully understood by those undertaking the Oakervee review.”
But, could this review have a positive outcome for campaigners to improve connectivity between northern cities dubbed HS3?
According to Business Live, what may at first seem detrimental for Manchester, Liverpool and other northern cities could yet turn into something more positive.
They say: A factor that may be hugely significant for cities like ours can be found in the government’s Terms of Reference of the review, where it says the exercise could focus on “whether and how the project could be reprioritised”.
In particular, it continues by saying that could mean considering “whether and, if so how, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) (including the common sections with HS2 Phase 2b) could be prioritised over delivering the southern sections of HS2.”
To be clear, this would mean a significant move away from the government’s current position of completing the London-Birmingham-Manchester high-speed line. It would instead re-focus time and money on a high-speed line connecting Liverpool with Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull – a scheme previously in the pipeline, but something of a HS2 afterthought.
The review panel will include Sir Howard Bernstein, former chief executive of Manchester City Council; Kevin Hollinrake MP, the co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group; Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood; Paula Dillon, a respected Yorkshire business person with expertise running a global legal business and will be overseen Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council.