Fifty Liverpool business leaders and the vice chancellors of the city region's four universities have sent an open letter to the leaders of the three main political parties calling for a commitment to ensuring the city gets a direct High Speed Rail link as a matter of urgency.
Currently neither the HS2 project nor the emerging Transport for the North vision for an East / West HS3 make any commitment to deliver a High Speed rail line into Liverpool.
The Open Letter was co-ordinated by the independent business-led 20 Miles More campaign and was signed by local companies in freight, professional services, life sciences, tourism, retail and creative industries along with universities and major business organisations including the North West Business Leadership Team, FSB, Professional Liverpool, Liverpool BID Company and Downtown Liverpool in Business.
Andrew Morris, chairman of 20 Miles More, said: "These are the businesses and institutions that are forging our future economy. The range of signatures demonstrates the breadth of support for a direct High Speed link to the city and how vitally important this is to our future prosperity and success. Liverpool's economy has always been based on connectivity and pioneering infrastructure. With the massive investment in the new Post-Panamax port facility we desperately need additional rail capacity and better connectivity in order to handle the projected massive growth in freight."
20 Miles More believes it's important that business and economic case is heard and that the political parties are challenged during the election about their commitment to the city and this vital piece of economic investment. Whereas all the parties have had a been underlining their commitment to economic re-balancing and releasing the potential of Northern cities the issue has not yet surfaced in the General Election Campaign.
The Open Letter comes ahead of on the publication of a major report by the think-tank ResPublica setting out the strategic case for a Liverpool High Speed link. The report was commissioned by Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.
Phillip Blond, director of resPublica, said: "Our report provides a comprehensive review of the city region economy and how it can best realise growth opportunities and potential. As a result we conclude that the case for a direct High Speed line into Liverpool is even more compelling and beneficial to the UK economy."
Anderson added: "I welcome the Open Letter from 20 Miles More and the business community. It is a timely intervention aimed at ensuring the interests and aspirations of the city are heard during this critically important election campaign."
See open letter in full below
David Cameron – Leader of the Conservative Party
Ed Miliband – Leader of the Labour Party
Nick Clegg – Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party
Twelve months ago 20 Miles More launched an independent grass roots campaign to ensure that Liverpool was an integral part of the HS2 project. As businesses and business organisations in the City Region, we continue to believe we have a direct interest in this issue. Connectivity directly impacts on our success and our capacity to help the city grow a vibrant and prosperous economy.
Liverpool is currently the largest English city not serviced by HS2 and there are currently no definitive plans to provide the city with a dedicated High Speed line as part of the proposed HS3 East / West link. Over the last 12 months Liverpool has taken its case directly to Government, HS2 Ltd, other key decision-makers and to each of the party political conferences. Businesses, City Region leaders and public bodies have worked together to press home the strong business case for a direct High Speed connection to Liverpool.
We believe that the next few weeks are a precious opportunity to influence those who will be governing the UK and ultimately making these vital decisions.
This is not about shaving a few extra minutes off journey times to London or other city destinations. What is at stake here is whether Liverpool remains a major economic centre or becomes an increasingly peripheral branch-line destination.
High Speed connectivity matters to Liverpool because without it we simply lack the rail capacity to realise the potential of the enormous investment in our port expansion. It matters because better connected city regions will inevitably become more attractive investment destinations, and it matters because it is the fastest and most obvious way to kick-start the exciting vision for a Northern Powerhouse. By radically improving connectivity between the two Northern cities (Liverpool and Manchester) with the closest geographic and economic links, we are at last creating an urban centre with the assets and potential to counter-balance London and the South East.
As businesses in the City Region we are investing in Liverpool's future every hour of every day. After decades of decline Liverpool's economy has, in recent years, been growing faster than any other UK city. This growth is being driven by private sector ambition and entrepreneurialism.
We believe it's only right that the next Government matches our confidence and commitment by giving our city the infrastructure and connectivity it needs to become a powerful asset to the wider UK economy.
That's why we are now calling directly on the Leaders of all the main UK political parties to commit to the principle of a direct High Speed rail connection to Liverpool. We call on you to work with businesses in the City Region and with all our main public agencies to work out imaginative and sustainable options for funding and delivering this vital piece of economic infrastructure as quickly as possible.
200 years ago, Liverpool entrepreneurs conceived and delivered the world's first inter-city railway. In the same spirit we invite you to join us in planning a new future for one of the world's most pioneering and inventive cities.
Bill Addy – Chair Liverpool BID Company
Professor Janet Beer – Vice Chancellor University of Liverpool
Chris Bliss – Estates Director Liverpool One
Elaine Bowker – Chief Executive The City of Liverpool College
Martin Bramley – Managing Director Eurowrap
Mark Butchard – Managing Director Mark Butchard Business Solutions Ltd
Professor Tom Cannon – Strategic Development Liverpool University
Dr John Carter – Vice Chancellor Edge Hill University
Emile Coleman – CEO Elite Sport Technologies
Graham Cook – Director Albert Dock Company
Lord Derby – President Liverpool and Sefton Chamber of Commerce
George Downing – Chief Executive Downing Developments
Sudaghara Dusanj – Managing Director Brewery Village Ltd
Robert Elstone – Chief Executive Everton Football Club
Ray Enfield – Chairman Rayware
Antonio Garcia – Managing Director Blok Architecture
John Hall – Chief Executive Professional Liverpool
Mike Hanlon – Chief Executive Maghull Group
Ian Higby – Managing Director ACL UK
Andrew Holroyd – Senior Partner Jackson Canter
Tim Johnston – Chairman AMION Consulting
Stuart Keppie – Partner Keppie Massie
David Lewis – Senior Partner Weightmans LLP
Phil McCabe – Merseyside , West Cheshire and Wigan Federation of Small Business
Peter McInnes – Chairman PHD1 Ltd
Frank McKenna – Chair Downtown Liverpool in Business
Ian Meadows – Executive Chairman R S Clare and Co Ltd
Andrew Morris – Chair 20 Miles More
Tom Morris – Managing Director TJ Morris
Chris Mussom – Chief Executive Liverpool Science Park
Eryl Parry – Director of Enterprise Liverpool Cathedral
Steve Parry – Chief Executive Neptune Developments
Dave Pichilingi – CEO Sound City
Janet Pickavance – Chief Executive Brabners LLP
Professor Gerald Pillay – Vice Chancellor Liverpool Hope University
Geoffrey Piper – North West Business Leadership Team
Bob Prattey – Chief Executive ACC Liverpool
Stephen Quinn – Sales Director Locker Freight Ltd
Erika Rushton – Chair Baltic Creative
Paul Sheppard – Studio Director IBI Group
Mike Stubbs – Director FACT
Neil Sturmey – Partner Grant Thornton Liverpool
John Sutcliffe – Managing Director Sutcliffe
Sally Tallant – Director Liverpool Biennial
Geoff Wainwright – MerseyBio
Guy Wallis – Founder partner DWF
Professor Nigel Weatherill – Vice Chancellor Liverpool John Moores University
Tony Wilson – Partner Hill Dickinson LLP