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Monday, 28 January 2013

High Speed Monday

By Emma Antrobus, Transport Policy Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Today (Monday 28th January) Government announced their preferred route for HS2 to travel from north of Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester. At Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce we have long supported the project as we see the potential economic benefit for the region as well as the transformational possibilities for transport.

Ahead of the announcement there were a lot of dismissive comments, along the lines of “£34 billion to cut 20 minutes off a train journey.” There is so much more to the project that the journey time savings are an incidental benefit. And so I took it upon myself to be a major flag bearer in supporting the project as it was portrayed through the media.

This resulted in me being in the BBC offices in Salford at 5.30am this morning to be interviewed for Radio 5 Live. This was rapidly followed by an interview on the Today programme, thankfully not quite the grilling that it could have been.

I took a short break from media stardom to be part of the meeting party for the Chancellor at Piccadilly Station where he stated the Government’s commitment to getting the line built and studied the maps of the route. (Click here for full details of the routes and station locations www.gov.uk/dft).

I then made my way back to MediaCity for interviews by BBC News Channel, BBC North West Tonight and BBC Midlands. Some of the details of the project I feel I could now recite in my sleep – estimated £1.5 billion economic growth for Greater Manchester against a national figure of £4bn, up to 10,000 jobs created and supported in Greater Manchester, the West Coast Mainline will be full in the next 10-15 years proving that it is a capacity issue, not a speed issue.

The ability to connect cities, specifically the people and businesses in those cities, is the critical element of the HS2 project. We are currently lagging behind many countries in Europe and the rest of the world with the paucity of our high speed rail provision. Today’s announcement allows business to have confidence that there will be Government investment in our cities, which will influence the private sector decisions as to where they will invest.

Also the connectivity direct to mainland Europe and HS2 linking to airports in Birmingham and Manchester means that the UK is increasingly attractive to inward investors.(The link to Heathrow is subject to the outcome of the Davies Commission into airport (hub) capacity but can be included in Phase 2 if it Heathrow remains as the main hub).

HS2 will not reach Manchester for about 20 years but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t support the project - transformational schemes take time to plan and implement. But, if we want to leave our city and country better than it was for us, this could be one of the ways to achieve it.

Emma.antrobus@gmchamber.co.uk

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