Regional leaders in Yorkshire and other parts of northern England have written to Elizabeth Truss to ask for the Government’s clear commitment to fully deliver the second phase of high-speed rail plans.
In an open letter to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 20 leaders underline their continued support for HS2 phase 2b, asserting that it is “one of the keys to unleashing the full economic potential of all our regions”.
The letter stresses that investment in the second phase - set to bring faster journeys from the Midlands to Leeds and Manchester, with services continuing further North - is complementary to, not an alternative for, improvements in local and regional rail networks such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
The letter says: “Our country has always thrived on delivering world-leading innovation and progress. Now, more than ever, we should be proud to build Europe’s largest infrastructure project without delay.
“Failure to make a clear commitment to the full delivery of HS2 at this time would be a disaster for our regional economies and our national prosperity for decades to come."
It adds that HS2 "is an essential pillar underpinning our respective strategies to deliver faster economic growth which benefits all our communities", which the leaders say is shown to be having a "positive impact on local and regional economies as the private sector makes positive investment decisions now in anticipation of its arrival".
Coun Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “Britain needs both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside investment in the East Coast Main Line and an upgraded trans-Pennine line to deliver the economic outcomes our region, the North and the UK, need to prosper in the decades ahead.
“These projects offer the chance to remove historic obstacles to inclusive growth and our focus should be on accelerating their delivery.
“Our plans show HS2, integrated with local transport at a transformed Leeds station, can deliver 40,000 additional jobs directly and a further 50,000 through productivity and regeneration benefits by 2050 in the Leeds City Region.”
Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, chairwoman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “This letter demonstrates our collective determination to ensure major transport investment, including HS2 integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail and a city centre station in Bradford, is delivered that removes major barriers to growth.
“Our plans to bring improved economic opportunities to all our communities are intrinsically linked to this investment in major infrastructure and it is essential that any uncertainty is removed.
“We will continue press the Government to ensure these investments are delivered for all parts of our region."
An HM Treasury spokesman said: "The Chief Secretary has received the letter and will respond in due course.
"HS2 is already underway with 7,000 people and 2,000 businesses working it.
"The line will add new capacity, and increase the reliability and frequency of connections."