Concerns are mounting as business and local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral, and Cheshire West and Chester, organised under the Growth Track 360 partnership, join a growing chorus opposing the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2b from Birmingham to Manchester via Crewe.
Speculation had been rife about a potential announcement regarding HS2 possibly being made this week. However, the UK government might delay any such communication until the Autumn Statement scheduled for 22 November.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Growth Track 360 Chair and Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, highlighted the HS2 as a pivotal part in the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda. The project promises to modernise the UK’s rail network, making it ready for an expected growth in rail travel, critical for the shift from road to public transport to mitigate carbon emissions.
The non-completion of the Northern leg threatens to leave the nation with an incomplete line, potentially wasting billions of pounds already invested in the planning and initial phases. “The Government will have signalled that it judges that UK PLC cannot afford to Level Up and invest in the North,” warns Councillor Gittins, stressing the high stakes involved.
Echoing these sentiments, Councillor Ian Roberts, Growth Track 360 Vice Chair and Leader of Flintshire Council, labels the cancellation as a ‘symbol of failure.’ He underscores the crisis facing public transport in Great Britain, highlighting the need for robust development to provide a reliable alternative to car travel, crucial for decarbonisation efforts.
Ashley Rogers, GT360 Business Representative and Chief Executive of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, emphasizes the business community’s support for HS2. A well-maintained and modern infrastructure is indispensable for ensuring the UK’s economic growth, competitiveness, and attracting further investment. The HS2 project stands as a critical means of creating additional capacity and enhanced service levels on the railways, contributing to efforts in reducing congestion, exhaust pollution, and carbon emissions.
The potential decision to cancel the Northern leg of HS2 is seen as a step back, not only wasting previous expenditure but resulting in a sub-optimal route for the South and the Midlands with zero benefits for businesses and communities in the North West of England and North Wales.
In light of these widespread concerns, the potential halt of HS2 Phase 2b stands as a significant point of contention, reflecting broader issues regarding the UK’s commitment to infrastructure development, economic growth, and environmental sustainability.