Journal Column by Marianne O Sullivan
The recently announced Government review into HS2 has reopened debate around the project, it is essential that HS2 is not scaled back to only linking London and Birmingham as this would increase regional disparities and do nothing to improve rail connections in the North.
The current plans for the Northern Powerhouse Rail route connecting major cities across the North is reliant on HS2 tracks being completed to Manchester and Leeds, without these improvements connections between key Northern cities will continue to be unreliable.
Having strong links from the North East to the North West is key, journeys are currently too slow and unreliable. Better connections will increase productivity and help to encourage more trade between northern cities as well as giving people a wider choice of employment opportunities, encouraging people to stay and work in the North.
Connectivity to the Midlands is also essential, the North East has a strong manufacturing sector, linking North East businesses to the Midlands with their manufacturing sector will help to encourage trade and will benefit the UK’s economy.
For the North East, HS2 along with Northern Powerhouse Rail will free up capacity across the network. This benefits areas away from the HS2 network by creating more capacity for local services from Newcastle to Darlington and around Tees Valley. The Chamber have been clear that along with major rail projects we also need investment in local rail and public transport to truly connect people and businesses in the North East.
More capacity is also essential for freight, improved rail freight access will help to encourage more businesses to use the North East’s ports and help exporters to move their goods easily, helping to increase international trade whilst reducing congestion on major roads for other travellers.We are not proposing that a blank cheque should be written to HS2, however we do need this project among others to upgrade the current Victorian rail infrastructure in the UK. The HS2 review team are due to submit their final report in Autumn. We cannot only have upgrades on the London to Birmingham route, the rest of the UK also needs to be connected.