HS2 will help bring Britain together

HS2 will help transform the economies of towns and cities across the Midlands and the North and bring wide benefits, new report ‘Why Britain needs HS2‘ has outlined. Its recent publication is crucial ahead of MPs voting today on delivering the next part of HS2, Phase 2a, which takes the scheme from Birmingham to Crewe and opens the way to the North.

Labour is supportive of HS2 – a programme that began under a Labour government – and it has gained strong backing from our Labour local government leaders. It has our strong support too. HS2 will not only join both of our constituencies, but also many cities and towns across the country – in our Labour heartlands, where we need a renewed focus on economic growth and rebalancing to address the deep-seated inequalities our communities face. The report shows that HS2 is intrinsically about ending the North-South divide with an economic programme that connects up Britain, bringing the country closer together.

We’ve seen many positive changes in our cities under Labour leadership, despite years of Tory austerity, but we cannot escape the fact that communities in the Midlands and the North have seen years of slower growth, lower productivity and stagnant wages. The quality of transport links continues to be critical factor and it’s why we need HS2 to turn this around.

The report highlights how HS2 improves business connectivity, from 19% to 23% in the city regions of the North and Midlands compared to 9% for London. In addition, urban planning, economic strategies and investment and transport programmes across these areas are predicated on HS2 being completed in full. If it is scrapped, these plans could be too. HS2 also underpins two other key rail programmes, the Midlands Rail Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) services, which will use the new HS2 infrastructure.

It isn’t only the major cities that will benefit. The advantages of HS2 will extend to places beyond those on the route, and free up capacity on existing railway lines. The report estimates that at least 22 cities and towns (other than the 25 places that will be served by HS2) will benefit from better rail services as result of HS2. Beneficiaries include Bradford, Wakefield, Doncaster and Hull to Coventry, Tamworth, Lichfield and Retford to Newark, Shrewsbury, Telford, Wolverhampton and Grantham.

The report also highlights other key elements, such as helping to decarbonise transport and meet our zero emissions goal. Freed capacity for freight takes lorries off the road. HS2, NPR and the Midlands Rail Hub working together will help power Labour’s plans for economic transformation, including our green industrial revolution.

But we must ensure that these benefits are better understood and definitely delivered. This means taking on the HS2 sceptics, who have been more vocal since the start of the year. Some argue there is a choice between the schemes – HS2 or NPR. The North and the Midlands should not have to make this choice: it is a false one between decent east-west and north-south rail services, when an effective overall rail network is what is required. That is what we deserve and what we can achieve.

We need to make it better known that the programme is underway. 9,000 people are already working on HS2. We can see this clearly in Birmingham at Curzon Street, where a huge area has been cleared and works are taking place to prepare for the new station. Birmingham Curzon Street station is at the heart of the country’s new high-speed route. We must ensure that the significant housing and employment opportunities unlocked by HS2 benefit all communities, and that the new investment and regeneration plans facilitate growth and success for all of Birmingham.

Just as the cranes rise above Birmingham, things are moving along at Crewe. It will be the first station in the North to be rebuilt for HS2 services and Phase 2a enables the development of a Crewe Hub, which will connect the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine areas. Crewe will gain 360° connectivity, with the potential for 100,000 new homes and 120,000 new jobs over the next two decades. Freed up capacity can enable more frequent services to places such as Nuneaton, Tamworth and Lichfield. Places not directly served by HS2, such as North and Wales, will also have faster journey times to a range of destinations. Phases 1 and 2a are set to open in 2027.

There are many benefits from HS2 and our two areas provide good examples. We need to tell all of our stories. Then we must ensure that all of the potential benefits are secured and all of our communities benefit, including through jobs and apprenticeship opportunities with businesses in our areas securing work through the supply chain. Let’s all get on board, help bring our country together and support the next phase as we vote today.

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