Transport Investment Should Be Targeted In Areas Where Historically It Has Been Lower
A report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has said that the high speed railway, HS2, should not go ahead without a new assessment of its costs and benefits.
HS2 is planned to run up to 18 trains per hour at a top speed of 225mph, with phase one set to open in 2026. Currently work on that scheme does not begin until the mid-2020s.
The committee, which includes former chancellors Lord Darling and Lord Lamont, also said it was doubtful that it could be built within the £55.7bn budget.
It said the first phase of the project offered "little benefit" to northern cities and that the scheme put too much emphasis on cutting journey times and not enough on the economic impact on regions.
It added that the second phase, which would improve journey times between Leeds and Sheffield, might not ever go ahead because of spending overruns.
Lord Forsyth, the committee’s chairperson, said: "The northern sections of High Speed 2 must not be sacrificed to make up for overspending on the railway's southern sections."
The report called for the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme - a separate scheme connecting towns and cities in the region - to be completed alongside HS2.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "By 2020, the government will have invested a record £13bn in transport across the North, and we have a clear plan for linking the Midlands and the North through HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail - the full benefits of which can only be delivered on the back of HS2.
"This is not either/or, we are clear we want both. HS2 will deliver additional rail capacity, significantly improve connections and provide opportunities for economic growth - with around £92bn in benefits - for people and businesses across the North."
Paddy Sturman, partner and head of Business Legal Services at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds, said:
Expert Opinion“The North of England needs significant investment in transport infrastructure and I welcome a review of HS2 to ensure that it doesn’t just make it easier and quicker for people in the North and Midlands to travel to London.
“An investment of this scale needs to ensure that it improves east to west links with cities in these regions, such as getting from Leeds to Manchester, and helps tackle the economic imbalances that currently exist by helping to improve productivity.
“Our recent UK Powerhouse report highlighted that the economies of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield are growing more slowly than their counterparts in the South East. This cannot be allowed to continue and new investment in transport should be targeted in places where historically it has been lower.”
Paddy Sturman - Partner
Tim Rayner, a Birmingham-based partner, joint national head of Property disputes and externally, Chair of professional services organisation, BPS Birmingham Leaders, expressed his disappointment that the report didn’t mention the Midlands
Expert Opinion“I agree with many local commentators, including the Chairman of the Midlands Engine, Sir John Peace, who criticise the report for failing to mention the Midlands. The region has a vital role to play and HS2 could help unlock the Midlands productivity and skills gap. The planned investment in HS2 is significant it must consider the Midlands, as well as northern cities, if it is to succeed.”
Tim Rayner - Partner