The government must accept the recommendation to combine Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and HS2 into one project, in order to begin to close the north-south divide, Yorkshire leaders have said.
A leaked version of the Oakervee report into the spiralling costs of HS2, which is scheduled to be published tomorrow, advised that NPR should be combined with HS2 to create one integrated northern project.
The government would then need to decide whether to go along with recommendations, which have been praised by both civic and business leaders as the best way to ensure the region gets the maximum benefit from both schemes.
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The Oakervee Review will set out how a process can begin swiftly for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to be best configured together to create a joined up new and upgraded world-class railway for the North.
“The government must accept this recommendation in full and commit to completing the whole network. Only then will we create the capacity we need to unlock the benefits passengers will see on a rolling basis over years, all building towards a network which will provide connectivity which is a prerequisite of closing the north-south divide for good.”
If the prime minister takes this recommendation on board and the project has the scale originally proposed, this would be good news for Yorkshire, regional leaders said. However, if combining the projects was used as an excuse to reduce the scale of NPR or HS2, this would be a “slap in the face” for the region.
Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport lead, said: "I understand that the recommendation will be to bring HS2 and NPR together under one project lead. We would welcome this as a way of ensuring we get the phasing in the right order and that we bring the earliest benefits that we can across the North."
A Transport for the North spokesman said the organisation would “continue to press hard for best options that deliver the most benefits for our communities”.
“Our leaders want new lines between Liverpool and Manchester, and a new line from Manchester to Leeds via central Bradford.
“But we’ve made no secret of our priorities. The North wants the full Northern Powerhouse Rail network to be delivered, integrated with HS2, to transform rail travel and unleash our pent-up economic potential.
“Rigid rules over infrastructure investment need to be revisited if the national economy is to be fairly rebalanced. Investment has been too long been tilted towards the south, whilst the North has lost out because of the Treasury appraisal process.”