More than 40 prominent figures from the Midlands and the North of England have signed an open letter calling on party leaders to publicly commit to completing the HS2 Phase Two line in its entirety.
Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Core Cities UK are urging Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrats Leader Vince Cable and SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon to offer their unwavering support to the project; explaining that it is the only way to ensure the country benefits fully from a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive regional economic growth and rebalance the economy.
Elizabeth Fagan, Chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, is among more than 40 business and civic leaders to sign the open letter. Fellow signatories include Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine & Midlands Connect; Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Councillor Judith Blake, Chair of Core Cities & Leader of Leeds City Council; Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group, the Managing Directors of East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport; and also top executives from Boots, HSBC, PwC and Mace.
Many of the signatories – including the D2N2 LEP Chair – met at Parliament today (Thursday January 24) to reiterate the open letter’s message to leading politicians. (Delegates pictured above). They were due to be joined by Allan Cook, the new Chairman of HS2.
Delivering HS2 in full will connect eight of the UK’s ten biggest cities, and once integrated with crucial upgrades to the existing rail network, including Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub, all ten cities will benefit from a step-change in rail connectivity.
The open letter explains:
“HS2 Phase Two will extend the benefits of this vital piece of infrastructure to more than 25 million people – over a third of the UK’s population – across the East Midlands, the North and Scotland. These people and places should not be denied the job and growth opportunities that HS2 brings. It must continue beyond Birmingham. Our support must not flounder or stall. We must unite to deliver HS2 in full, and we urge you to join us by offering your vocal and unwavering support. Help make HS2 happen for everyone, and help us all achieve our full potential. To our party leaders we say – back it, build it, benefit from it.”
HS2 Phase One, connecting London to the West Midlands, received Royal Assent in 2017 and construction is underway.
The HS2 Phases 2a and 2b – connecting the West Midlands to the East Midlands, Crewe, Manchester, South Yorkshire and Leeds – still require Parliamentary backing to proceed. Phase 2a is scheduled to receive Royal Assent before the end of 2019, with Phase 2b following in early 2023.
The signatories assert that committing to HS2 in full, once and for all, will spread the flow of investment across the Midlands, the North of England and into Scotland. The eastern leg of Phase 2b alone supports plans that will double the size of Leeds city centre and deliver £4billion a year to the East Midlands’ economy; through a new regional Hub station at Toton and HS2 maintenance depot at Staveley, Chesterfield, and associated development.
Sir John Peace, Chairman of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said today: “The Midlands and the North are uniting behind HS2, promoting the short and long term benefits and answering the project’s critics to make sure it goes ahead in full. Securing unequivocal, cross-party support to deliver HS2 in its entirety is essential to the economic futures of the Midlands and the North.
“The East Midlands alone stands to create 74,000 new jobs as a result of HS2; reaffirming the promise of this investment will catalyse growth and business confidence during a crucial transitional period for the country. We can’t afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”
Elizabeth Fagan, Chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “HS2 is the catalyst to place us at the heart of the UK transport network, jumpstart major business and housing development, and create thousands of skilled jobs.
“Only by working in partnership with colleagues in the Midlands and the North can we make this once-in-a-generation opportunity a reality, helping rebalance the UK economy, to benefit all sectors and regions.”
For media inquiries and interview requests in connection with today’s (Thursday January 24) HS2 event and open letter please contact James Bovill, Midlands Connect Media Lead, on 0121 214 7944 or 07384 249164, or email: JamesBovill@midlandsconnect.uk