HS2 go-ahead ‘will deliver opportunities’

North West business leaders have welcomed the news the HS2 high-speed rail link project has been given the green light by Boris Johnson and his government with predictions it will boost Lancashire’s economy.

The first phase of the new track will run between Crewe and London Euston via Birmingham, and is scheduled to be complete between 2028 and 2031.

A second phase will then connect Wigan and Manchester to Crewe, and Leeds to Birmingham. This should be complete between 2035 and 2040.

The project has proven controversial, with costs spiralling from £56bn to £106bn, as well as the path of the new track moving people out of their homes and passing through wildlife habitat.

However, once operational, HS2 will reduce overcrowding and speed up journey times. A trip from Manchester to Piccadilly to London currently takes more than two hours, but would be cut in half via the new route says the Department of Transport.

The cabinet member for economic development at Lancashire County Council was among those to welcome the go-ahead – saying it would bring opportunities to the county.

County Councillor Michael Green said: "HS2 will undoubtedly bring new opportunities for the whole county, by making us a transport hub on the new national high-speed network.

"While possible construction could still be a few years away, we're already looking at how we can be in the right position to benefit from HS2.

"Lancashire is already home to world-class companies, especially in advanced manufacturing. It’s vital to have good transport connections to attract highly-skilled workers and create new opportunities for people and businesses who are already here.

By making it easier for people to come to Lancashire, HS2 would bring many opportunities to create new jobs

"By making it easier for people to come to Lancashire and for us to reach other parts of the country, HS2 would bring many opportunities to create new jobs and bring new economic growth to the county."

As part of the HS2 proposals, the stations in Preston and Lancaster could be served by HS2 trains, using the existing network.

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, highlighted the opportunity for the north to take a leading role in the project.

He said: "The powerful combination of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will transform the rail legacy left by the Victorians, now creaking under the strain of demand. That’s east-west and north-south connections for our 15 million people and businesses.

"Benefits to the North’s communities need to be delivered as quickly as possible and we’re determined to push ahead and get spades in the ground here.

"We want to see full commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail in the National Infrastructure Strategy due to be published on budget day.

“Doing so would slash journey times in the North, spark economic growth and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. Crucially, the decisions must now be led by the North.”

Chris Manka, North West regional chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, sounded a note of caution over proposals to re-examine the northern-most parts of the project in order to save costs.

He said: "It is welcome that at long last a decision has been made to proceed with HS2, although we naturally have some concerns about the proposed future review for onward connections to Manchester and elsewhere.

“What we don’t want to see is the wider Northern area merely getting the leftover crumbs from the plate, and ultimately a second-class system compared to the south.

“We are desperately in need of a ‘levelled up’ railway system, with much greater capacity, and vastly improved connectivity east/west, that will help deliver more sustainable travel for all.”

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The decision to proceed with HS2 was a long time coming – so it’s great news for businesses, investment and growth in many parts of the UK.

We’re determined to push ahead and get spades in the ground here.

“It's time to stop debating and start delivering the new capacity and connections that HS2 will bring to our communities and businesses.”

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