Boris Johnson
Johnson has said he would conduct an independent review into HS2 should he win the Conservative leadership contest

Damaging uncertainty around HS2, say council leaders

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

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.”

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It will never happen

By John Borison

Glad to see this united approach….this is crucial investment…need to emphasise the freight capacity issue even more strongly…access to Liverpool and hull ports is clogged …..for regeneration, economic and environmental issues ….this is essential…..we should not be diverted into debate about hs1 v hs 2 ….we need both …they are interdependent….also a focus on hs2 will just allow the treasury to avoid any big spending for 10/15 years ….as hs2 still some way off major ground work as mainly still being planned

By Graham Burgess

HS2 is not needed. The reintroduction of suburban lines round GM is as well as a more relaible overall service.

By Acelius

NPR yes HS2 no

By Anonymous

The only reason there is uncertainty is due to HS2 being founded on some very spurious assumptions and theorised benefits. It’s a shame that the political “thinkers” for the north back HS2 out of a mewing sense of gratitude that Whitehall is even thinking about them. Such a lack of self worth & confidence is demeaning to a great Region

By A Developer

There goes another rib. Boris is going to deliver NPR. Will that come after the billions thrown at Heathrow? Or will that be after Crossrail 2? Still waiting for Theresa May to deliver the policy to help those “Just managing.” What an absolute waste of time it is voting when you don’t live in the pampered South.

By Elephant

Read fabulous description of Boris the Buffoon the other day, “he has a face (or possible head) like a dropped blancmange”. Best description ever, fits him to a tee. Did you know he pays someone to do that to his hair? Pays them with real money? To do that?

By D

The latest electric trains would take 1 hour 40 mins to get to London. If I want to be in our London office by, say 10 am, I would have to leave home shorty after 7 am to catch the train in Manchester. Come on, we are not Germans. You cannot expect an English gentleman, I’m not talking about the Morlocks, to get up in the middle of the night to go to work. We desperately need faster trains now. A chap needs a proper night’s sleep, surely.

By James Yates

HS2 would be a waste of money.

By Dan

Wonder what he thinks of the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre?

By Alan Partridge

Why would direct lines to Manchester and Leeds from the south make that much difference to a line going east to west across the north, or across the Midlands? Very little use of the same tracks, and infinitely cheaper to build new short sections where they are in common than to spend over £100,000 bn on HS2.

By Andrea Polden

It’s interesting how all the vested interests are crying out for HS2. Meanwhile all of those of us who’ll never use it, want to use it or won’t be able to afford to use it, are constantly being swamped by government propaganda which suggests all sorts of spurious reasons why this is such a brilliant scheme. It clearly is a dog’s dinner and an horrendously expensive one at that.

The majority of the UK’s taxpayers want it scrapped, and soon, before any more money is wasted.

By TommyM

Assuming Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister and with Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour party we will have two of the most London centric political leaders ever so HS2 will not get beyond Birmingham.

By Lenny1968

Will one of you hs2ites buy my property at a pre hs2 value .Btw you will be able to trainspot in the field next door.

By Fod

I am not a fan of HS2 really but even I think it would be absolutely ridiculous to not got through with it now!!

Typical politian stance; talk and talk, back and forth, not actually doing anything while the country falls further and further behind.

By Dear Oh Dear

This isn’t about speed. There’s a train every 20 minutes to Manchester from London and for much of the day, such trains are full. The West Coast Main Line has similar intercity services from Manchester to Birmingham, London to Holyhead, Birmingham to Glasgow etc. HS2 allows us to take all of these trains completely…. yes completely off Manchester, Birmingham and London’s local network. To you and me, that means more transpennine trains on the Stockport Viaduct, more freight via Crewe, more local services to Macclesfield etc.

This will be a boon for Manchester Airport too. If they sort the northern ends out as through stations for NPR, we’re onto a winner.

When you go to Sydney, Toronto, the Netherlands, France, you’ll see that they have wider gauge trains which can carry more passengers over two floors. Because our railways were victorian, we don’t have that. HS2 will be to a wider international standard, carrying more passengers.


One of the reasons why the trains take so long between London and Manchester is because they stop too often. There should be at least one direct every hour. When you are sitting in Stoke station for twenty minutes en route,or Milton Keynes, you can see why the time of the journey has hardly changed in Donkeys years. It would be there in an hour and a half if it didn’t stop.

By Elephant

I am sure their are many more important things beside hs2 witch a great deal of people don’t want gojbg through their town city. Or village the railway should be able to get the tracks and trains for less than 56 billon of tax payers money. To me the tax payer should have a say. But with wot ive seen they may have a say but its not acted upon. So I’d scrap hs2 until the people ha e had a proper and Frank discution

By Steve darby

Agree with CAPACITY.
Bring it on, we need more large infrastructure projects in the north – whether I’ll be able to afford it or not.

By Deja

We desperately need HS2. The trains between Manchester and London are rammed full most of the time. We need a new line to increase capacity and make the north more attractive to southern based businesses. Even more desperately, we need NPR to improve links across the north – and unfortunately the business case for NPR doesn’t stack up without HS2. Building both will transform links across the north. We should have done this 30-40 years ago when every other European country was. We are already so far behind – our GDP per capita places us in the mid-20 range globally and falling. We need investment now or risk becoming the poor man of Europe once again.

By Mancunian

Why would we want to get to London quicker?

By Anon