HS2 potential to northern connectivity not to be underestimated, says Percy

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Andrew Percy has today promised to address the disparity in per-capita spend between the north and the south, but has also said not to “underestimate” the value of southern investment in Crossrail and HS2 to the northern economy.

Speaking at the Northern Powerhouse Conference in Manchester this morning, the minister agreed with the findings from IPPR North this week that the investment gap between the north and south was too big, but also went on to argue that connectivity opened up by investment in projects such as Crossrail and HS2 was valuable to the northern economy as well.

Touching on the possibility of an east-west high-speed rail line – HS3 – Percy said that these links would be improved anyway with the success of HS2, but also promised to deliver better rail routes for commuters in the north of the country.

“We are going to improve the transport networks that businesses and hardworking commuters rely on every day. It is intolerable that it takes me, and other commuters, longer to get from Cheshire to Doncaster than it takes to get from London to Cheshire in the first place,” he told delegates.

“That is a choke on investment in the north. We are going to address that, but these big infrastructure investments do not simply happen overnight.”

He later added: “The east-west connectivity simply is not good enough and I appreciate that. But we should not undermine the value of HS2 as well, as that unlocks some of the connectivity between towns and cities in the north as well.”

Percy went on to make the point that HS2 was important not just because of its supply chain, but also because it cannot work in isolation from challenges posed by improving east-west rail connectivity.

“It does not mean that just because the spend is in the south that it does not benefit northern economies, but that disparity is a massive challenge and one we have made in future allocations we have taken into account,” he concluded.

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Jimbo   22/02/2017 at 18:54

This is a better balanced statement than the IPRR one, but still misses the point. Funds for rail investment are not distributed on a per capita basis, they are used where there is the best rate of return. You may not like these rules, but with very limited funds, that is the way chosen to distrbute them. You will get a better result if you work with the rules rather than just sit on the sideline and complain.

Watcher   22/02/2017 at 22:56

If you looked at the IPPR report they did consider that, that's why they looked at how many commuters benefited and the projects in the regions had between 4-8 times as many people benefitting per pound spent.

Jimbo   23/02/2017 at 09:04

@Watcher - I dd look at the IPRR report, but found so many misrepresented numbers and dodgy comparisons that invalidated anything the report was saying. Just to be clear, these sorts of machinations are common everywhere - the BML2 material is just the same, people trying to justify their pet scheme with numerical agility.

Graham Nalty   23/02/2017 at 10:08

Andrew Percy is quite right to point out east west connectivity is not good enough, but I fail to see how, by any stretch of the imagination, HS2 unlocks connectivity between ‘towns and cities in the north as well’’ If HS2 served both Leeds Sheffield by the same trains in the east, and Stoke and Manchester by the same trains in the west, I might see some credibility with this statement. I agree with the Minister that “It is intolerable that it takes me, and other commuters, longer to get from Cheshire to Doncaster than it takes to get from London to Cheshire.” The logical follow-on would be to defer the London to Birmingham section of HS2 and use the funds to improve the north first.. HS2 can only be important for the supply chain provided we use British skills and materials. There is no benefit to the UK if the rail are bought from China rather than Scunthorpe, if the trains are only assembled in the UK from high technology engines and bogies made elsewhere. Jimbo suggests that with limited funds we should play by the rules. But this only works if the rules are fit for purpose. And the present Benefit to Cost rules were designed to justify the building of motorways rather than deliver jobs through infrastructure. The most successful entrepreneurs never played by the rules if the rules did not suit their purpose – they made their own rules. These rules prioritise large traffic flows, mainly journeys to London, The rich get richer the poor get poorer. These rules attract the best talent away from the north to commute to jobs in the south. The rules we need to apply to transport infrastructure are the rules that prioritise job creation in the north. And that means investment into and between the larger cities in the north.

Lutz   23/02/2017 at 21:45

The same phases where used back in the 50s and 60s to justify expenditure on all those dual-carriageways and motorways in the North, at the expense of London and the South, and STILL made no difference.

Ben   24/02/2017 at 12:24

Someone please drug test Andrew Percy now. Or better still, make him ride routes like: Birmingham-Nottingham (1h9min 51miles, 5mins quicker by car according to maps.google.co.uk) or Liverpool-Hull (3h13min 127miles, 24mins quicker by car) HS3 does nothing at all to address issues like these.

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