Chamber chief urges HS2 go-ahead


East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Miranda Barker has called for the HS2 rail programme to be “enacted swiftly” to allow the county to become more competitive.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has launched a review of high-speed rail link HS2 – with a decision on the future of the major infrastructure project set to be made by the end of the year.

Miranda, who chairs the North West’s Regional Manufacturing Forum, called for HS2 to proceed in its entirety “in full co-ordination" with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

She said: “The North West is hamstrung economically by having now only limited capacity on north-south rail and road networks and only one mediocre east-west rail route.

“The North of England is the manufacturing centre of the UK and is unable to efficiently move goods to UK and overseas customers due to a lack of freight capacity.

“For Lancashire - the fourth largest aerospace cluster in the world, this damages our economic competitiveness on a global scale and curtails the UK’s economic competitiveness.

“HS2 needs to be enacted swiftly, in its entirety and in full co-ordination with Northern Powerhouse Rail to maximise the economic benefit to the UK as a whole.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, has also described HS2 as a “vital project.”

And he said that Preston was one of the cities that would benefit from better rail connections under an integrated plan.

For Lancashire - the fourth largest aerospace cluster in the world, this damages our economic competitiveness on a global scale.

The review will consider whether and how the project to connect London, the Midlands and northern England should proceed, looking at costs and benefits.

It will look at HS2’s benefits and impacts as well as its affordability, efficiency, deliverability and scope.

The review will also look at the phasing of the programme, including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

A final report will be sent to the Transport Secretary, with oversight from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the autumn.

Boris Johnson has expressed doubts about the project, having said during his Tory leadership campaign that he wanted a full investigation into its costs and scope before deciding on its future. He spoke of his “anxieties about the business case”.

In a statement the Department for Transport said: “The report will inform the government’s decisions on next steps for the project. Limited, largely preparatory works, on the project will continue in parallel with the report’s work.”

Mr Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

 “That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.”

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