Rail industry slams door on ‘completely misunderstood’ Grayling HS2 Phase 2b comments

Leaders of the northern rail industry have rejected the possibility of the Phase 2b HS2 route possibly no longer being funded by the government, arguing that the comments raising concern by the transport secretary were “completely misunderstood.”

Speaking at the HS2 Economic Growth Conference in Solihull yesterday, industry experts including HS2 chair Terry Morgan, strategy director for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Simon Warburton, and well-known chair of the Warrington and Cheshire LEP Pete Waterman OBE, all raised issues with the claims.

Concern was raised after the Sunday Telegraph reported that transport secretary Chris Grayling admitted Phase 2b of the £54bn route “was not in the bag,” and may not be funded by the Treasury. Grayling argued that the north “has to make the case” for the section that will connect Birmingham to Leeds.

Several other upcoming projects including Crossrail 2 will also demand attention from the Treasury’s finances, however this was rejected by Transport for the North chief executive Barry White last month.

Speaking to delegates yesterday, Sir Terry said that Grayling’s comments had been “completely misunderstood,” and that there were other potential projects demanding the country’s finances.

He added that although the case is still to be fought for, “we have to fight for Phase 2b because there will be other demands.”

Strategy director for TfGM Simon Warburton said: “As far as we’re concerned, the case is made and we find it rather odd that there’s an existential debate taking place.”

Phase 2 sponsorship director for HS2 Lorna Pimlott also took a stance against the comments:

Dr Pete Waterman, chair of the Warrington and Cheshire LEP, and the most entertaining speaker of the day, condemned the claims as “stupid.”

“Sorry – am I being stupid? We’ve started building this thing in Euston, and what, are we going to build a railway which doesn’t go to the north’s biggest city in Manchester?

“The route is supposed to go to Manchester which is the second biggest city—are we stupid, are we going to stop at Crewe? Is this real? Come on, let’s grow up! Of course we’re going to go to Manchester.

“And the people who would cancel it wouldn’t be in power for long because the whole point is it opens the north up to the opportunities the south have had for over 60 years.”

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Image credit: PA Images


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