Manchester City Council

Please Mr Porter

After eight weeks in post, the new Chair of HS2, David Higgins, delivered his first evaluation report in Manchester at the beginning of this week. Being in Manchester was in itself symbolic, giving a very clear message that HS2 is very much about improved transport links for the North, but the report had much more than symbols to offer.

First and foremost he stressed that HS2 remains essential to our economic future but also recommended that the network needs to be constructed alongside improvements to East-West connectivity between Northern cities. The money is available to do both! Network Rail and the Department for Transport are already planning for the next control ( spending ) period, period 6, and on current projections government will be spending more on other rail improvements throughout control periods 6 and 7 ( 2020-2029 ) than it will on the high speed network. The North now needs to get together and agree what its priorities are for those improved inter-city links in the north and midlands and then campaign with one voice to get a fair share of that control period 6 and 7 pot.

Other important recommendations included accelerating the build process getting to Crewe by 2027, six years ahead of the current schedule, with Manchester and Leeds brought forward by three years. This has a double benefit of increasing cost certainty and of the north reaping the benefits sooner. Costs are clearly an issue but the biggest risks here are not construction overspends but how long our parliamentarians take to get through their legislative processes.

Just one other thing I'll mention here. David Higgins has said that the current proposal to link HS2 with HS1 and through that to mainland Europe is inadequate and should be reviewed. That review and the suggested comprehensive private sector funded redevelopment of Euston Station are very much to be welcome. This Higgins report is a very important staging post to delivering the transport network Manchester and the north needs. Parliament now needs to show the same dynamism in dealing with the phase 1 hybrid bill and moving as quickly as possible to phase 2, including considering breaking with convention and having two bills going at the same time.

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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