As Boris Johnson lines up plans for a review into HS2 should he become Prime Minister, Northern councils leaders have penned a joint letter to the Conservative leadership contenders, stating that failure to invest in the railways would send “a clear and powerful signal that once again the North has been overlooked by Westminster”.
The letter urges the candidates to commit to the delivery of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, “with the future prosperity of the region balanced on the successful implementation of an effective and forward-facing infrastructure strategy.”
As momentum grows around former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s bid to become Prime Minister, he is understood to have lined up an independent reviewer, former chairman of HS2 Douglas Oakervee, to assess the business case for the £56bn project and how to proceed.
Leaders of Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle City Councils have been joined by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, and many other Northern towns as authors of the letter.
The letter reads: “We are writing to all candidates to ask them to stress the importance of a coherent rail investment programme, encompassing immediate commuter capacity, HS2 and NPR, for both the future prosperity of the North, and to demonstrate that the next Prime Minister will be a strong advocate for, and a true partner with, the North of England.
“There remain damaging levels of uncertainty over both the appetite of any future Government to approve the necessary funding to see NPR progress to its next phase and to secure the future of HS2 Phase 2b by delivering the Hybrid Bill in timely fashion.”
The letter stressed the symbiotic relationship between the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals.
“Without HS2, NPR’s costs will rise and its impact will fall. Without NPR, HS2 will fail to achieve its full potential. The economic case for HS2 relies upon Phase 2b being delivered to the cities of the North, and it is only through the full delivery of both HS2 and NPR that the North can see truly transformative benefits, north to south and east to west. Moreover, the next Government cannot postpone decisions on operating capacity for today’s railway while it solves the HS2 and NPR questions of tomorrow.
“If we fail to invest in our railways now and give certainty on the transformation to follow, not only will the national economy be hindered, but a clear and powerful signal will be sent that, once again, the North has been overlooked by Westminster.”