High speed rail essential to levelling up, says new HSRG report

Politicians, combined authorities, academics and transport leaders join forces to stress importance of rail in levelling up.

A new report has seen politicians, business leaders and academics join forces to stress the importance of transport investment to levelling up the UK. 

Published by the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG), High Speed Rail: Levelling Up Voices makes the case that investing in and improving transport connectivity results in a boost to living standards, more resources diverted toward skills and education and restores local pride and opportunity across the UK.

The report says following the Covid-19 pandemic, economic recovery is central to the government’s forward-looking agenda. 

But its contributors make clear that an economic resurgence cannot be achieved without engaging the cities and regions outside of London and the south-east. 

It adds that one of the historic and ongoing drivers of the unbalanced national economy has been under-investment in regional transport systems.

While HS2 understandably occupies a prominent position in the discourse around rail infrastructure, the report also touches on the importance of other major projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and East-West Rail, amongst others, all crucial in closing the gaps between regions and counteracting inequalities between the UK’s communities. 

The report also looks beyond existing plans for HS2, including the idea of an ‘X’ shaped high speed rail network that joins up not only London and the north via the Midlands, but also improves connectivity by reaching Wales and the south-west.

Contributors to the report include Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority; Steve Rotherham, metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region and Martin Tugwell, chief executive of Transport for the North.

A High Speed Rail Group spokesperson said: “The gaps between affluence and deprivation shrink as the distances between our towns and cities close. High speed rail is levelling up in action, and it should be at the heart of the government’s drive to improve prosperity and wellbeing throughout the country.

“Our latest report is evidence of the multitude of ways that high speed rail can help deliver levelling up. Of course, as our contributors demonstrate, ‘levelling up’ means different things to different people, but what is consistent between them is reducing regional inequalities, spreading resources and opportunity more evenly, and putting infrastructure in place to bring our communities into the 21st century.”

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, added: “Even before its completion, we are already deriving a range of important benefits from HS2 as we strive to make the most of this once in a generation infrastructure investment. The prospect of much improved connectivity is helping to unlock major residential developments around forthcoming station sites.”

Steve Rotherham, metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said trains were “vital” to the fortunes of the Liverpool region and the wider North of England. 

“For decades, communities across the north have been held back from fulfilling their potential by a lack of connectivity, having been forced to contend with short sighted solutions and consistent underfunding,” he said.

“But our railways are about far more than just getting people from place to place. They are a driver for, and a barometer of, social justice in this country.”

Martin Tugwell, chief executive, Transport for the North, added: “Key to realising the potential of our people and places is the need for investment to improve connectivity, both across the north and with the rest of the UK.

"The government’s commitment to HS2 gives added confidence to the private sector to invest in the north. It reinforces how the decisions we make on transport can be a major agent for change when it comes to making ‘levelling up’ real.”

Click here to read the report High Speed Rail: Levelling Up Voices

If you would like to contact Karen McLauchlan about this, or any other story, please email