Business groups today welcomed the UK government’s announcement of its proposed route for the second phase of the HS2 high-speed rail network.
CBI director general John Cridland said that HS2’s northern phase would boost the economic potential of some of the biggest cities in the UK, driving growth and creating jobs across the country. Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, called for the line to be extended further, creating a full national network.
Stations are planned to be located in the West Midlands, north west, East Midlands and Yorkshire along the 211-mile northern route of HS2 which extends the line in two branches from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
Phase one, which was announced a year ago, will link London and Birmingham and stretch for 140 miles. Construction on this first phase is planned to start in four years’ time and the line is expected to open to passengers in 13 years.
Phase two is scheduled to open six years after that.
The proposed second phase includes new stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands. The high-speed line will also be integrated with the existing national railway network. According to the Department for Transport this means that additional cities and towns – such as Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Preston, Warrington, Lancaster, Carlisle, Durham and Darlington – will also benefit from new connections and shorter journey times due to new trains able to use both high-speed and conventional railway lines.
After a period of consultation on the preferred route, stations and depots, the final route will be chosen by the end of 2014.
The prime minister, deputy prime minister, chancellor and transport secretary all voiced support for the HS2 proposals today and said that the government was committed to investing in the infrastructure that Britain needs to compete in the global economy.
The TUC, the national trade union centre, also welcomed the plans to extend HS2 to Leeds and Manchester. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that the new high-speed rail route had the potential to create thousands of new jobs and boost regional growth, as well as providing a boost for the construction and manufacturing industries. However, she warned that the government needs to take an active role in creating jobs in order to realise the benefits of the scheme.
Many MPs and countryside campaigners are vigorously opposed to the plans, claiming that the business case for the new network is based on unrealistic assumptions and the environmental impact has not been fully taken into account.