Northern think-tank launches own HS2 review

27 Aug 19

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership think-tank has announced its own review of High Speed 2 in response to the government commissioning analysis of the project.

The think-tank’s study will seek to provide a “northern perspective” to inform the government’s review and help rebalance the UK economy, NPP said.

It follows the announcement last week from transport secretary Grant Shapps that an “independent and rigorous” review will be launched to decipher the benefits, affordability and scope of the rail project.

The budget for HS2, which will connect London to the Midlands and northern England, has risen from £32.7bn to £55.6bn. HS2 Ltd claims that for every £1 spent on the project, the UK will receive £2.30 in benefits.

But the review has cast doubt over the second phase of the project, which would see the railway extended from the West Midlands to Crewe and Manchester.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Combined Authority Andy Burnham said: “People here are watching closely and will demand nothing less than the Northern Powerhouse that was promised.”

Henri Murison, director of the NPP, said: “The Northern Powerhouse is of critical importance to the future of UK prosperity, and without improving connectivity it will be difficult to address the underlying reasons for our lower productivity.

“In the coming weeks, this group of distinguished leaders and experts from across the North will be addressing the key audience to ensure that the importance of economic rebalancing is fully understood by those undertaking the Oakervee review.” Douglas Oakervee will be leading the government’s HS2 review, with Lord Berkeley – who has previously criticised the scheme – as his deputy.

The NPP’s panel will consist of several northern figures, who will include Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Kevin Hollinrake, co-chair of the APPG on Northern Powerhouse and Howard Bernstein, former chief executive of Manchester City Council.

Northern leaders are staunchly in support of the project, which has been beset by delays and overspend, and a group of 20 stakeholders previously wrote to the government urging it to commit to finishing the line.

Documents seen by the BBC show that government and HS2 Ltd knew that the high speed railway was over budget and behind schedule years ago, meaning that the public and parliament were not given all the information about the cost involved.

Responding to the revelation ex-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “It is deeply worrying that the government have been keeping the true costs of HS2 under wraps.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson vowed to review the project in his leadership campaign and highlighted infrastructure as area for improvement in one of his first speeches as prime minister.

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