A Call for Clarity from the Public Accounts Committee
On February 7, 2024, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released a new report demanding that the government provide clear answers regarding the controversial decision to terminate the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project at Birmingham. This decision has sparked a wave of questions about the future of transportation and economic development in the UK, particularly concerning its effects on the North.
Response from Transport for the North
In light of the PAC’s report, Lord McLoughlin, the Chair of Transport for the North, expressed his concerns about the missed opportunities resulting from halting HS2’s extension beyond Birmingham. He emphasised the North’s potential for economic growth and how it is currently being hampered by inadequate connectivity. Lord McLoughlin stated, “We know the North has huge economic potential, but poor connectivity is holding the region back. Transport for the North’s ambition is to close the productivity gap, decarbonise surface transport and improve opportunities for all. That requires transformational investment in our transport system, and none more so than in our railways.”
He further elaborated on the significance of HS2 for the North and the entire country, pointing out the dual benefits of enhanced North-South connectivity and increased capacity. “The decision to stop HS2 at Birmingham is a missed opportunity for the North, and the country as whole. It wasn’t just the improved North-South connectivity it would have enabled, but the extra capacity it provided, both in terms of the new high-speed line and in the space freed up on the existing network to run more services. This would have benefited passengers and freight.”
Lord McLoughlin reaffirmed Transport for the North’s commitment to advocating for substantial investment in the region’s transport infrastructure to address these critical needs. “Transport for the North’s evidence shows those capacity and connectivity needs haven’t changed, and we need still need that transformational investment in pan-regional transport to support levelling up. We will continue to work with government to address these challenges and deliver the benefits citizens and businesses across the North need.”
The ongoing dialogue between Transport for the North and the government is a testament to the complex challenges and high stakes involved in shaping the future of the UK’s transport landscape, especially in terms of achieving balanced economic development and ensuring equitable opportunities for all regions.