Councillor Gary Millar, Liverpool’s Assistant Mayor and Mayoral Lead for Business and International Trade, reflects on the Government’s announcement over the routes for HS2.
Whilst Liverpool welcomes opportunities for ambitious transport links it is hugely disappointed that the government appears slow and disconnected when considering where to spend our money.
Recognised by many as the front door to the Northern Powerhouse, Liverpool City Region appears to be its poor relation and consigned to high speed rail’s tradesman’s entrance.
With the announcement on HS2 the government appears to be ignorant of our City Region’s resurgence as a maritime and logistics hub and the need for speed, growth and a sound economic future. Not only will the lack of connection with London hinder business in Liverpool, but also damage our role in the emerging Northern Powerhouse.
HS2 has the potential to take 500,000 HGV lorries off the road, cutting the carbon emissions in the UK dramatically. It is vital for the recently opened Liverpool 2 port to be connected, logistically and environmentally.
The Department for Transport has announced that it is pressing ahead with plans for a Y-shaped network across the North West, running from Crewe to Greater Manchester and Leeds, but appears to have only included Liverpool as Manchester’s airport hub! The first phase of HS2, which will connect London and Birmingham, is expected to begin operating in December 2026, with phase two pencilled in for completion in 2032-33. Consultation will now take place around the latest plans but a final decision on them will not be made until 2017. As the great campaign by ’20 Miles More’ points out, Liverpool is the fastest growing economy outside of London – but the only major city that won’t be connected.
Plus, as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says: “The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day.” BUT, it appears not in Liverpool City Region or anywhere near the birthplace of commercial rail. Back in 15 September 1830 eight high speed trains set out from Liverpool drawing luminaries from the government and industry, including the Prime Minister. The day was marred by the death of William Huskisson, the Member of Parliament for Liverpool, who was struck and killed by the Rocket. Almost 200 years later the government appears to have killed off our Rocket and has chosen instead to deliver Liverpool a damp squib!
However, maybe the government will surprise us with a knock on the front door of the Northern Powerhouse and instead gives us the likes of Hyperloop and similar technologies that are not almost 40 years old – now that would be truly ambitious!
Follow Gary on Twitter: @garymillar Join the campaign for HS2 to Liverpool: @20MilesMore