Landmark open letter urges party leaders to publicly commit to completion of HS2 Phase Two

More than 40 prominent figures from the Midlands and the North of England have signed an open letter calling on party leaders to publicly commit to completing HS2 Phase Two in its entirety.

Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Core Cities UK are urging Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable and Nicola Sturgeon to offer their unwavering support to the project, explaining it is the only way to ensure the country benefits fully from a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive regional economic growth and rebalance the economy.

The letter has been signed by more than 40 business and civic leaders, including: Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine & Midlands Connect; Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of Core Cities & Leader of Leeds City Council; Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group, the Managing Directors of East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport, as well as top executives from Boots, HSBC, PwC and Mace.

Delivering HS2 in full will connect eight of the UK’s ten biggest cities, and once integrated with crucial upgrades to the existing rail network, including Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub, all ten cities will benefit from a step-change in rail connectivity.

The open letter explains: “HS2 Phase Two will extend the benefits of this vital piece of infrastructure to more than 25 million people – over a third of the UK’s population – across the East Midlands, the North and Scotland.  These people and places should not be denied the job and growth opportunities that HS2 brings. It must continue beyond Birmingham.

“Our support must not flounder or stall.  We must unite to deliver HS2 in full, and we urge you to join us by offering your vocal and unwavering support. Help make HS2 happen for everyone, and help us all achieve our full potential.

“To our party leaders we say – back it, build it, benefit from it.”

HS2 Phase One, connecting London to the West Midlands, received Royal Assent in 2017 and construction is underway. It’s led to record levels of Foreign Direct Investment in to the West Midlands, with more than 7,000 new jobs created in Birmingham as a direct result of HS2, and over 100,000 more expected around the new Curzon Street and Interchange stations.

Phases 2a and 2b, connecting the West Midlands to the East Midlands, Crewe, Manchester, South Yorkshire and Leeds, still require parliamentary backing to proceed. Phase 2a is scheduled to receive Royal Assent before the end of 2019, with Phase 2b following in early 2023.

The signatories assert that committing to HS2 in full, once and for all, will spread the flow of investment across the Midlands, the North of England and into Scotland.  The eastern leg of Phase 2b alone supports plans that will double the size of Leeds city centre and deliver £4 billion a year to the East Midlands economy through the new hub station at Toton.

The open letter comes as MPs, business and civic leaders from across the country unite today (Thursday 24 January) for a parliamentary reception at Westminster to intensify their unequivocal support for HS2. They will be joined by Allan Cook in his first public engagement as Chairman of HS2.

Sir John Peace, Chairman of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said: “The Midlands and the North are uniting behind HS2, promoting the short and long term benefits and answering the project’s critics to make sure it goes ahead in full.  Securing unequivocal, cross-party support to deliver HS2 in its entirety is essential to the economic futures of the Midlands and the North. The East Midlands alone stands to create 74,000 new jobs as a result of HS2; reaffirming the promise of this investment will catalyse growth and business confidence during a crucial transitional period for the country. We can’t afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of Core Cities UK and Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The current political uncertainty at Westminster makes it all the more important that Government stays the course and continues to back Phase Two of HS2 which is vital for our Core Cities, including my own city of Leeds where its benefits are already being felt. HS2 is more than just a railway line, it will unlock future jobs, training and regeneration opportunities that will benefit all our citizens. Its construction is key to the success of future infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub that will boost productivity and help rebalance our nation.”