The north and Midlands "must take control" of HS2, says Northern Powerhouse review

The north and midlands ‘must take control’ of HS2, says Northern Powerhouse review.

A report by the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into HS2 says the north and Midlands must take control of their high-speed network, and that cancelling the major infrastructure project without credible and viable alternatives “will not deliver the transformational benefits to the UK economy this country so badly needs".

The review also calls for the establishment of HS2 North; a special purpose vehicle (SPV) on the model of the Olympic Delivery Authority. This would make it arms-length from government, with private sector delivery partners and Network Rail, overseen by Transport for the North to ensure HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and related upgrades are combined “efficiently and with maximum value".

Established to inform the government-commissioned Oakervee review of HS2, which itself is understood to be ready to publish its recommendations to the Department for Transport in the very near future, the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review:

  • Recommends the establishment of HS2 North – a special purpose vehicle working with the private sector to integrate HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR);
  • Articulates a 20% increase in the transformational economic impact to the north of delivering NPR along with building HS2, with £1 in every £5 generated from building a new east-west line as a result of long-distance journeys onto HS2;
  • Warns that only by investing in a new, integrated high-speed network can the historic north-south divide be tackled; upgrades or scrapping HS2 have none of the prerequisites to tackle the UK’s geographic imbalance;
  • Identifies parts of the new and upgraded line network that can be delivered now including connecting northern cities to each other – the north will not accept waiting until 2040 for HS2 to connect northern cities to Birmingham, London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

The report claims that while significant benefits to the northern economy are identified in its review, it says it is clear that further detailed work needs to be undertaken. Therefore, the partnership are urging the government not to make any decisions to scrap all or part of the project until that further economic analysis is complete.

In addition, the review claims to reveal the true scale of benefits to parts of the north:

  • The potential aggregate GVA prize for the north equates to £1,000bn between 2035 and 2050. If transport investment unlocks just 10% of this prize it would enable £100bn;
  • In Leeds, by 2050 HS2 will create 50,000 new direct jobs adding £54bn GVA to the regional economy;
  • In Greater Manchester, by 2050 HS2 will create 60,000 new jobs around Piccadilly and Manchester Airport with an additional 37,000 jobs around Crewe station;
  • In Liverpool, by 2050 HS2 direct services via NPR will create an additional 24,000 new jobs.

Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood and member of the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into HS2, said: “Our review panel proposes that the north and Midlands must take control of the nation’s high-speed network. HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are completely interlinked and a joined up approach is required to both and the upgrades to existing lines. Only by delivering an integrated high-speed network right across the north can a Northern Powerhouse vision be truly realised. Further delays and uncertainty are hugely damaging to north and the country as a whole.”

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport lead, said: “HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are vital to address the poor transport links between cities in the North and Midlands which have acted as a significant break on our economies. In my own region, this investment will deliver 50,000 additional jobs as well as an annual £600m boost to the UK economy from better connections between Leeds and Birmingham. There is not a binary choice between having a long-term investment programme for the existing rail network and the delivery of new infrastructure. Both are required if we are to have the modern reliable rail network the UK needs.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, former chief executive of Manchester City Council and member of the Northern Powerhouse Independent Panel Review into HS2 said: “The north deserves better and will continue to campaign to ensure we secure a proper share of national resources and meet our ambitions so that we achieve our full economic potential.”

Steve Rotheram, metro mayor, Liverpool city region, said: “This independent review of the evidence for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail demonstrates once again its vital importance for boosting not just the economy of Liverpool city region and the north, but the whole of the UK. Not only must the government invest in both, but I am calling along with other northern political and business leaders for spades in the ground in the north at the same time as in the south. This would save a huge amount in construction costs and bring the jobs and economic boost to the north years earlier than would otherwise be the case.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “To truly rebalance Britain we need substantially increased capacity on our rail network. The benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 together are greater than either scheme alone and cancellation of either east and/or western leg without a proven and credible alternative could leave us with no way to secure the economic competitiveness we need, which alongside productivity gains, is a pre-requisite of rebalancing the British economy.” 

The Northern Powerhouse Independent Review is based on an extensive review of the economic evidence, published alongside economic analysis by Steer Economic Development.

The review has been overseen by a panel of respected leaders, including Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Kevin Hollinrake, co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group, Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood, Paula Dillon, a respected Yorkshire businessperson with expertise running a global legal business, and Howard Bernstein, former chief executive of Manchester City Council.

If you would like to contact Rob O’Connor about this, or any other story, please email