THE chairman of Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) plans to put together a detailed economic case to bring Britain’s new high speed railtrack (HS2) into Liverpool city centre.
LEP chairman Robert Hough said government proposals published in a consultation document last week not to run HS2 the whole way to Liverpool were not set in stone and could yet be overturned. He added that the current plans would leave Liverpool at a massive disadvantage compared to Manchester when it comes to attracting inward investors.
In its consultation document the Department for Transport proposed building high speed track between London and Crewe but trains travelling to Liverpool would complete the journey using ordinary “classic compatible” tracks. In contrast, HS2 track would run the whole way to central Manchester. As a result, journeys between Liverpool and London would take 28 minutes longer than between the capital and Manchester.
Referring to the DfT proposals, Mr Hough said: “It’s not a definitive route. It’s a good start to base a consultation around but it gives us room to respond and we will do that.
“I’m sure businesses would like to see it connect to Liverpool but we have got to make the economic case.
“As it stands it will take 30 minutes longer than Manchester and 20 minutes longer than Wigan. That does matter in terms of perceptions by investors.
“It’s not just a ‘me too’ approach. It’s a question of the competitiveness of the city region. It’s critical.
“Our case has to be reasoned, valid and properly argued. It’s an investment that will endure many decades. If we are disadvantaged now it becomes a virtually permanent state.”
Frank McKenna, chairman of business lobby group Downtown in Business, said it was a “disgrace” that the line didn’t run into the city. However he also argued that the £33bn cost of HS2 would be better spent improving rail links between Britain’s regions.
Mr McKenna also warned: “We would never suggest HS2 is a bad project but it needs to be accompanied by a series of measures that ensure it doesn’t just suck wealth and talent out of the north to the south.”
Has city missed the train? – see Post Business p2