HS2 Manchester Civic Society address
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Explains how HS2 will be an engine for growth in Manchester and across the north west.
I’d like to thank John Kershaw, Chairman, Manchester Civic Society, for inviting me here to speak today (24 January 2014).
And it’s a great place to do it.
This is a city built by transport – canals, railways, roads.
After all, it was in this hotel, the Midland, in 1906 that Rolls first met Royce.
And not far from here you can still visit the station of the world’s first passenger railway.
Though, come to think of it, the day it opened a cabinet minister stepped in front of a train and was mown down. Not a precedent I want to see repeated!
The fact is Manchester’s pioneering business leaders were powerful voices constantly and consistently advocating for the new railway’s construction. Because they knew it would transform commerce and open new markets.
I’m sure you can see where I am going here.
But before I get on to High Speed 2, I’d like to say a few words about why we are making a record investment in transport.
What that means for Manchester and the north west.
And later I’d like to take some time for your questions.
In 2010 we inherited an economy that was heading for the rocks. According to the IMF, by 2007 Britain had the largest structural deficit of any G7 nation.
And for too long growth was concentrated in London and the south east. Between 1997 and 2010 London’s economy grew a third faster than that of the north.
We want to build a stronger, more balanced British economy. One that delivers long-term growth across the country.
There are signs that the tough decisions we have taken are working.
The deficit is already down by a third. By the end of last year business activity was growing fastest in the north west and we entered 2014 with the fastest growing economy in the western world.
There was more positive news this week. The fastest quarterly growth in employment since records began and the IMF predicted that the economy will grow by 2.4% in the coming year.
But we didn’t just inherit a fiscal deficit. We inherited an infrastructure deficit too.
Demand for long distance rail travel has doubled, our roads have got busier and growth in demand will continue.
But investment hadn’t kept pace.
We were falling behind our competitors.
By 2010 the World Economic Forum ranked the UK 33rd for the quality of our overall infrastructure. That’s well below the EU average.
Already 4 out of 10 drivers on the M60 are delayed and Manchester has the most crowded evening peak time trains outside of London.
Congestion alone is expected to cost business £10 billon a year by 2025. So we need to improve our infrastructure or the economy will grind to a halt.
That’s why we will be investing more over this decade than over the whole period of the last government.
We are making a significant investment in Manchester’s transport infrastructure and ensuring you can take the decisions needed to help business compete.
We are investing £267 million to improve the M60, reducing congestion on that vital road artery.
Demand for international travel is growing rapidly and we want to help you get the best from the new Enterprise Zone. So we are improving links with the airport. By extending Metrolink and building the long-needed link road east to the A6.
We will also deliver the £530 million Northern Hub rail programme. It will unlock capacity between Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Sheffield and finally bring back non-stop services to Liverpool from May this year.
The Northern Hub will deliver more trains and faster journeys on transpennine services, cutting 10 minutes off journeys from Manchester to Leeds and more, quicker services to Bradford and Sheffield.
In total 700 more trains will run between the major towns and cities in the north every day.
We are also investing almost £50 million rebuilding Manchester Victoria station.
From a station the public rated Britain’s worst, to a modern gateway the city can be proud of.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the engineers from Network Rail and its suppliers who worked so hard over Christmas and New Year at Manchester Victoria - and across the network. They did a fantastic job in tough circumstances.
But it’s just one of those investments - High Speed Two – that I want to focus on because improving our existing infrastructure will only get us so far.
The West Coast Mainline serves half of the 10 largest cities in Britain and at some point carries almost half of rail freight.
And that combination of long distance, local and freight traffic means the line is filling up. And like any system run at near capacity, the West Coast mainline is vulnerable to snarl ups and delays.
Of course, some people say we don’t need HS2 to provide the additional capacity that is needed. For example, we could lengthen some trains and encourage people to travel at different times.
And where we can, we will do all this. But quick fixes will not solve the long term problem.
We’ve already spent £9 billion upgrading the existing West Coast mainline.
Twenty years ago there were fewer than 20 trains from Manchester to London each day. Now there are more than 45.
The cuttings, tunnels and viaducts that remain are Victorian masterpieces. But they’re not simple to extend. Widening the existing line would be like trying to drive the M6 down the Wilmslow Road.
Longer trains alone will not create the additional capacity we need to move more freight. That means around half a million truck journeys on the roads that could be carried by rail.
And it doesn’t create the additional capacity required for new routes. That will leave Lancashire towns like Blackpool without direct mainline services.
So we need a new north-south rail line.
More capacity will benefit inter-city, commuter and freight services, links that will support enterprise and change the UK’s economic geography.
But I know that capacity isn’t the only thing that matters about HS2. We need to build it within or under budget. We will.
The budget for HS2 is £42.6 billion. Not £80 billion. That is an upper limit including £14.4 billion contingency and we will reduce costs where possible. I have also asked the new Chair, Sir David Higgins to look at where we can speed up construction.
Because I am absolutely determined High Speed 2 will be delivered on time and on budget and get the benefits to the Midlands and the north as soon as possible.
That’s one reason why I was disappointed that we were taken to the Supreme Court this week - though not disappointed by the outcome.
It was seeking Judicial Review on a technicality. They had already lost at the High Court and then lost again at the Appeal Court. But still they appealed to the Supreme Court. It was a waste of their time, of your time and of taxpayers money. I’m pleased the Supreme Court has now found in our favour so we can get on.
HS2 will generate approximately 20,000 additional jobs for Greater Manchester and add £1.2 billion to the regional economy over the long term. This is an investment we can’t afford not to make.
We are proposing 2 stations in Greater Manchester, one in the city centre and the other at the airport. And we are nearly at an end of the consultation on the second stage of the route.
You are the experts at what Manchester needs to thrive.
If you have not done so, I want to encourage you to respond to the consultation. It closes at the end of the month (January 2014). It is your knowledge and expertise that will help ensure Manchester gets the best from HS2.
In conclusion, for Britain to succeed, Manchester has to prosper. I believe this great city will be as much of a powerhouse in 21st century as it was in the last. That’s why we are investing in Manchester’s success.
We are building HS2 so even more people can see Manchester’s past and become part of its future growth. Manchester’s Victorian leaders left us a lasting legacy in the shape of Britain’s railways.
I hope you can continue to be just as powerful advocates for the benefits of HS2 - advocates for its importance to this city and to our country’s future.