Civic leader vow not to leave North East isolated from HS3 benefits

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson called for connection to Newcastle and a bigger commitment from Labour and Government on high speed rail

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council
Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council

North civic leaders have vowed the region will not be left isolated amid fears a high speed rail plan could starve investment for decades.

The second phase of the HS2 plan, ‘HS3’, would see the line reach Leeds and go between Leeds and Manchester by 2030, it was announced this week.

Tory Chancellor George Osborne has backed the £7bn blueprint for rail services, which he hopes will help to create a ‘Northern powerhouse’ to rival London’s economic dominance.

But North Durham MP Kevan Jones MP dismissed the scheme as a “vanity project” targeting North West marginal seats which will “suck down money for years to come”.

The report by HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins also sets out how five northern cities - Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield - should form one body called Transport for the North, forming one voice on transport.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We have got common interests in growing our economy.

“No-one wants to see Newcastle isolated and on their own. They need to be part of our economy and they very much are.

“We just need that better connectivity.

“Newcastle was mentioned in this report. It is recognised that the North East needs to have better transport.

“We need to bring the area nearer to us with these better journey times.”

Councillor Nick Forbes, transport lead for the North East Combined Authority has said high speed rail must work as part of an overall plan for the rail network, and called for more investment in the East Coast Main Line.

Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson says the Government’s HS3 plan risks creating ‘two Norths’ - one that is connected and directly benefiting from high speed rail and others that aren’t.

He called on the Government to be more ambitious and connect more cities with a high speed line, including Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow.

He said: “It is absolute madness that we are not seizing the opportunity to connect our cities, to connect east and west, from here to Newcastle.

“Quite simply, we can create more growth, more jobs and more prosperity and boost the economy, not just in the North East but across the UK.

“Better transport is why there has been so much growth in London.

“We need a bigger commitment, not just from the Government but from the Labour party.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh, however, was sceptical about the HS3 plans.

She said: “It has no timescale, no routes and no budget.

“I think we do need better rail services in the North.

“Labour has a plan to cap rail fares and to devolve rail services closer to the communities that use them. This would create a railway that puts passengers before profit.”

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