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17.10.19

North and Midlands must take control to deliver true benefits of HS2 and NPR, says review

The North and Midlands must take control of their high-speed rail network, argues a report from the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review warning against cancelling the major infrastructure projects without viable alternatives.

The review, established to inform the Government-commissioned Oakervee review of HS2, which will report to the Department for Transport on the future of HS2 later this week, makes a number of points and recommendations to ensure transformational change is delivered to the North.

It recommends the establishment of HS2 North – a special purpose vehicle working with the private sector to integrate HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

This arms-length government body would be based on the model of the Olympic Delivery Authority, with Transport for the North overseeing the work to ensure HS2, NPR and related upgrades are combined efficiently.

The panel is urging Government to not to make any decisions to scrap all or part of the project until further economic analysis is complete.

The review warns that “only by investing in a new, integrated high-speed network can the historic North-South divide be tackled; upgrades or scrapping HS2 have none of the prerequisites to tackle the UKs geographic imbalance.

Chris Oglesby, a member of the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into HS2, said: “HS2 will be transformational in equipping the North to thrive in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

“It delivers massive economic benefits by increasing capacity and speed both between our cities and into them on both new and existing lines.”

The report states that there’ll be a 20% increase in the transformational economic impact to the North by delivering NPR along with building HS2, with £1 in every £5 generated from building a new East – West line as a result of long-distance journeys onto HS2.

It also identifies parts of the new and upgraded line network that can be delivered now, including connecting northern cities to each other. It declares that “the North will not accept waiting until 2040 for HS2 to connect Northern cities to Birmingham, London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.”

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport lead, commented: “HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, integrated and with a new Bradford city centre stop, are vital to address the poor transport links between cities in the North and Midlands which have acted as a significant break on our economies.

“There is not a binary choice between having a long-term investment programme for the existing rail network and the delivery of new infrastructure. Both are required if we are to have the modern reliable rail network the UK needs.”

Image credit - Ben Birchall PA

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