A coalition of business leaders and policy experts has launched a campaign demanding that the city of Liverpool be linked directly to the proposed HS2 high speed rail line.
The ‘20 Miles More’ campaign has sent an open letter to the government, arguing that extending the proposed route by just 20 miles to Liverpool would bring a number of business and economic benefits.
Under current plans, HS2 will run from London to Birmingham by 2026 and to Manchester and Leeds by 2033.
The campaigners say that a Liverpool HS2 branch would add £1.5 billion to the overall cost of the project, while providing a return of £2.70 for every £1 invested. They claim some £8 billion in economic benefits would be generated for Liverpool itself.
The letter also points to the £1.8 billion that is being spent on expanding the Port of Liverpool to accommodate the Post-Panamax carriers. It adds that this investment will only reap maximum returns if there is a sufficient increase in local freight capacity.
Removing passenger services off the West Coast Mainline onto HS2, it argues, could provide this capacity.
Andrew Morris, director of 20 Miles More, said extending the line “will ensure that the economic growth that is very much in evidence in the city will not be jeopardised”.
Phillip Blond, a signatory of the letter and director of the thinktank ResPublica, added, “It’s imperative that Liverpool shares in the hugely enhanced connectivity that will be provided by HS2.
“It will otherwise be massively disadvantaged when trying to compete with other cities by relying on 19th century infrastructure, slower journey times and, potentially, reduced passenger capacity.”
HS2 has proved highly controversial since its announcement. Though the Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge against the project last week, opponents still hold a number of concerns, including the disputed cost.
On Thursday, the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin reportedly blocked the release of a 2011 review that those against the high speed network said undermined its development. Meanwhile, environmental campaigners have said that the official environmental impact assessment of the project demonstrates “a shocking disregard” for England’s woodland and wildlife.
Critics have also refuted claims that the development will help the UK lower its carbon emissions, pointing to a paper by HS2 Ltd that says carbon emissions caused by the line will outweigh carbon savings over the first 60 years of operation.