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Regional leaders urge major parties to publicly back building HS2 Phase 2 route

Bodies from the Midlands and the north of England have written an open letter to the leaders of the four major parties calling for them to publicly commit to building Phase 2 of the £56bn HS2 route.

The letter penned by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, and Core Cities UK, and signed by a host of council figures, urged the party leaders to pledge to deliver Phase 2 of the project as planned in order to provide the economies of the Midlands and the north with the “certainty they so desperately need.”

Phase 1 of the high-speed rail project has already received Royal Assent and begun construction, and Phase 2a is due to reach Royal Assent by the end of 2019— but prominent figures in the West and East Midlands and the north are growing increasingly concerned about the future of the project.

The flagship project, which lost its chief executive in December, is at risk of overrunning its schedule— and spiralling costs have left doubts over whether HS2 can be delivered within its £56bn budget.

At a meeting with MPs, HS2’s new chief executive Mark Thurston revealed that train speeds and the number of services could be reduced in order to keep the project within budget. Earlier this month, the chief secretary to the Treasury warned the government could scrap “white elephant” projects.

In the letter, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Vince Cable, and Nicola Sturgeon are urged to publicly commit to Phase 2 of HS2, saying that “strong leadership and unwavering support” is needed.

It says the hundreds of thousands of new jobs HS2 will bring can only happen if it the rail link is finished in full, which is the “only way” to drive regional growth and ensure the entire country benefits fully from a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

HS2 will establish a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham by 2026, and Phase 2 will see this extended to Crewe, Manchester, and Leeds.

The letter states that HS2 Phase 2 will extend the benefits of “this vital piece of infrastructure” to more than 25 million across the east and west midlands, the north west, the north east and Scotland.

It noted that people and places in these regions should not be denied the job and growth opportunity HS2 brings, and warned that the project must now follow through and continue beyond Birmingham.

Earlier this week, Sir Terry Morgan reaffirmed concerns that the project could be heavily changed, claiming that “something will have to give” and warning that “nobody knows” what the final cost will be.

Image credit - Ben Birchall/PA Wire/PA Images


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