Business chiefs have given a cautious welcome to moves for a high-speed “HS3” rail link in the north of England, following a report by HS2 boss Sir David Higgins.
Sir David said better rail links in northern England were “desirable” and “possible”.
Babs Murphy, chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Businesses have seen many proposals for better links between Northern cities over the years. The prospect of a high-speed east-west rail link across the North is a good start if it materialises, but we would like to see more thought given towards connecting all the core cities in the north, not just Manchester and Leeds.
“While the Chancellor’s ambition for a Northern ‘HS3’ is positive, the government must focus on getting HS2 on the statute books and into construction first, and on vital road and rail improvements throughout the UK.
“Businesses like this sort of ambitious thinking, but will be far more impressed if the government’s existing list of infrastructure commitments are delivered.”
Meanwhile, decisions to proceed with projects such as the HS2 high-speed rail scheme are “not always popular”, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
But he added that he was a “passionate” believer in high-speed rail and that going ahead with HS2 was the right thing to do.
He was speaking in Leeds where he backed plans by HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David on the second phase of the £50 billion HS2 project and also plans for an “HS3” to improve east-west rail journeys across northern England.
Believed to be costing around £7 billion and supported by Chancellor George Osborne, HS3 would see journey times slashed between northern English cities.
Mr Cameron said: “I am passionate for high-speed rail. It is important for our country that high-speed rail works for Britain.
“These sort of decisions – decisions about our country and the fu ture of rail – matter. They are not always popular. HS2 is not always popular. But I profoundly believe they are right.”
Earlier Sir David had said his plans for HS3 were “a start of a conversation”.
He said: “This is not just a single project. It’s more than the eye-catching journey-time reductions. HS3 will give northern England rail services twice the capacity and much more reliability.”
Phase one of HS2 involves a new high-speed line from Euston in London passing through Tory heartlands in the Chilterns to Birmingham, with Sir David saying that its completion would be in 2027.
Phase two would see the line extended north from Birmingham in a Y-shaped route going to Manchester and Leeds, with Sir David saying this would be completed in 2033.
The project is strongly supported by the Government but is bitterly opposed by some councils and residents along the phase one route.
Sir David’s report said there was a need to take forward both legs of the proposed HS2 Y-network.