Improvements to transport connectivity between the northern cities, including through HS2, through east-west high speed rail links and road improvements, would be a key driver in realising the potential for the cities of the north to become a “northern powerhouse” for the UK’s economy. HS2 is a vital part of our plans to deliver significant transport infrastructure that will not only maximise benefits across the UK, in terms of journey times and connectivity, but will help balance the UK’s economy, drive regional regeneration, support job creation and deliver substantial economic growth.
We are firmly and fully committed to our plans for a high speed rail network connecting Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds as part of our plans for HS2 Phase Two, on which we consulted earlier this year.
In his report, “HS2 Plus”, Sir David Higgins set out his recommendations that the government should undertake further work on bringing the benefits to the north sooner, improving city centre to city centre and east-west connectivity and enhancing integration with our existing network.
In response to his report 5 cities – Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield – are already engaged in a programme of work looking at northern connectivity. I am looking forward to seeing the outputs from this work. I am also very grateful for the responses to the HS2 Phase Two consultation, which we will report on in the autumn.
The government has now asked Sir David to produce ambitious proposals for connecting the great northern cities. This work will look at how to bring the benefits of high speed rail to the north more quickly, as well as initial proposals for faster east-west connections – including options on route, timescales and cost – by the time of the Autumn Statement later this year.
In completing this work Sir David will discuss emerging issues with leaders from the midlands and the north, and will work with Network Rail to ensure this is part of a comprehensive plan for the entire railway network in the north of the country, as well as liaising with the Highways Agency to ensure it is fully integrated with the strategic long term plans for the national road network, currently being developed. Separately we are continuing to work on improved rail links to Scotland.
HS2 is a key part of this government’s growth strategy and I am keen to maximise its benefits as we look to deliver economic growth in the north and across the country more generally.