Manchester claims an underground HS2 station would be better for the city. Credit: Weston-Williamson

Leaders call for ‘more substantive’ rail proposals

A report pushing high-speed rail as a levelling up priority has been released, with Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram describing rail as a “driver for, and barometer of, social justice”.

Published by the High Speed Rail Group, High Speed Rail: Levelling Up Voices makes the case for the benefits of rail infrastructure investment: making movement of people and goods more efficient, creating larger labour markets, improving access to services and growing access to markets.

In its executive summary, the report criticised the lack of meaningful commitment on transport included in the government’s flagship policy, the Levelling Up White Paper released in February meeting with disgruntlement.

The report said: “A general lack of more substantive proposals to further invest in rail, and in high-speed rail infrastructure in particular, beyond the confines of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan was disappointing.

“Our commitment to delivering large transformational infrastructure projects must be expanded if the Government are to truly succeed in spreading resources, power and influence right across the country.”

Beyond HS2, the report talks of the importance of other major projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and East-West Rail, also speaking of an X-shaped high-speed network that joins up not only London and the North via the Midlands, but also improves connectivity by reaching Wales and the South West.

Contributors to the report include:

  • Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Steve Rotherham, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
  • Martin Tugwell, chief executive, Transport for the North
  • Ian Fitzpatrick, principal and chief executive, National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure
  • Cllr Bev Craig, Leader, Manchester City Council
  • Will Wilson, chief executive, Siemens Mobility Limited UKI
  • Ben Still, chief executive, West Yorkshire Combined Authority
  • Cllr Huw Thomas, Leader, Cardiff Council

Cllr Craig said: “Any serious policy which sets out to rebalance the nation’s economy and increase its productivity needs to have an efficient public transport system at its heart. HS2 must be central to that.

“Done well as a strategic investment, it can provide a massive stimulus to jobs, investment and the whole northern economy. Done short-sightedly, it will leave us counting the cost for many decades to come.”

Again, Cllr Craig reiterated Manchester’s disappointment with the HS2 proposals as currently conceived, saying the overground station proposed will be inefficient and “a poor welcome to the city”.

She stated that an optimised design for an underground alternative would likely cost less than the £4bn to £5bn the government has posited. HS2 defended its position in June.

Rotheram said: “Trains are vital to my region’s – and the wider North of England’s – fortunes. Yet for decades, communities across the North have been held back from fulfilling their potential by a lack of connectivity, having been forced to contend with short-sighted solutions and consistent underfunding.

“But our railways are about far more than just getting people from place to place. They are a driver for, and a barometer of, social justice in this country.”

Rotheram went on to say that the Integrated Rail Plan had “dashed the hopes” of Northern leaders, describing the new money promised as “a fraction of the £96bn headline sum”.

He also said that the government’s proposals for Liverpool City Region are “a cheap and nasty” option that would leave it no better connected, more congested “and arguably financially worse off”.

The full report is available on HSRG’s website.

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I wonder if Steve Rotherham`s views on HS2 actually reach the powers that run our railways, previous Liverpool MP Louise Ellman was chair of the parliamentary transport select committee but did not achieve much for Liverpool`s HS2 case.
Meanwhile Steve Rotherham has just got nearly £800m transport funding from central government but is only building one new station at Baltic, plus a refurb at Runcorn and Sandhills, also miles of tunnels and track remain unused which he could have re-vitalised.

By Anonymous

The jobs and opportunities that high speed rail in the North will create NOW in terms of the planning work required, engineering, construction, building supplies etc. are often overlooked and forgotten about due to people only looking at the long term picture. Both need to be taken into account. Both are great contributors as to why we need high speed rail in the North in its fullest extent.

By Verticality

Steve Rotheram doesn’t have a clue when it comes to transport

By Gilly

Anonymous: I think that’s pretty harsh, the chair of a select committee has no formal powers over policy, they are their to scrutinise, so she could talk about expanding HS2 and rail as much as she liked but if the government of the day are not on board it won’t change much.

One of the many issues with giving out post of of money like the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, is that government set the terms and conditions and ultimately have the final say. One of thing they were pushing particularly in these funds was Active Travel and capital funding that was previously part of the BSIP funding for bus reform. They also wanted the integrated transport block included. So to try and cover all aspects of transport to deliver on local priorities, while keeping within the terms and conditions and agreed budgets, you can only do so much. Opening rail lines again; particularly without well developed businesses cases is really hard, building a station along an existing line is easier but still has many barriers. Hopefully, pots of funding like Restoring your Railways will allow the Liverpool City Region to benefit.

By Anonymous

Steve who ?
Never heard of the guy only present prior to elections and die hard LFC fan that gets him the votes , as for getting what the city needs he fails to deliver.

By Anonymous

Don’t you DARE slate Rotherham. He is a Transport Planner’s dream.

By Anonymous

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