'Stop dithering and sort out HS2'

Lancashire business chiefs have urged the Government to deliver HS2 in full amid fresh reports the link to the North could be put on hold.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 5:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 5:54 pm
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And a union chief has called for an end to the “dither and speculation” over HS2.

The Financial Times says the long-awaited Oakervee report into the viability of the high-speed link from London says work on the extension from the West Midlands to the North should be paused for six months to examine whether a mix of conventional and high speed trains would best serve the region.

The cost of HS2 has also been predicted to rise to £106bn.

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Today Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “HS2 should be delivered in full, without delay.

“There is a strong economic case for delivering all phases of HS2.

“For far too long businesses across the UK have had to cope with heavily congested Victorian-era railways – with passengers and freight traffic vying for priority.

“Businesses count the cost of this in delayed journeys, overcrowded trains, uncertain deliveries and unreliable services”

She added:“By delivering new, dedicated express routes between cities, HS2 will provide much-needed capacity to Britain’s rail network and free up space for local and freight services on existing lines.”

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union which represents thousands of engineers and rail workers, said: “The dithering and speculation over HS2 needs to stop.

“This vital infrastructure project is overdue and both business and communities are suffering in its absence.

“The North of England has spent too long as the poor relation of transport investment.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said it would “not be acceptable” if the North of England element to HS2 was delayed or made with only a “mix” of high-speed rail.

The Labour politician told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m worried by the suggestion that there might be a delay in the North, or even that we might get some kind of second-class option, a mix of high-speed and conventional lines that it’s talking about.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News he was “neutral” on HS2.

He said he wanted the facts from Oakervee so he could make a recommendation.

Mr Shapps said “We’ll be making a final decision, along with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, on this very shortly.”

Downing Street refused to comment on the latest leaks about the cost of HS2.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Government commissioned the Oakervee review to provide advice on whether and how to proceed with HS2.

“A draft of the Oakervee review was delivered shortly before Christmas.”