Later this week, businesses and politicians from across England will come together to reiterate the case for bringing high-speed rail to the North of England.
Contrary to what some might say, the prize with high-speed rail isn’t reduced journey times to London or even the much needed additional capacity that a new rail link will bring – the real prize is the investment, jobs, and opportunities that comes with connecting HS2 to the north.
Together, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are the keys that can unlock the Northern Powerhouse. What does that mean in practice? £130billion added to the economic output of Greater Manchester by 2050. 40,000 new jobs created. 13,000 new homes built. The productivity gap between the North and London – that has held the North back for so long - finally narrowed.
At a time when our economy faces the prospect of huge upheaval the case for investing in the North has rarely been stronger. In fact, I believe it is irrefutable.
However, there are still those who still seek to prioritise one of these schemes over the other. I’ve seen a number of politicians claiming that scrapping HS2 is the best way to secure Northern Powerhouse Rail.
The truth is that the North doesn’t want one or the other – we need both. HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are not mutually exclusive schemes, in fact, HS2 will help enable Northern Powerhouse Rail – and it is beyond time that the North was put at the front of the queue when it comes to investment.
Crucially, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will reinforce Manchester Airport’s role as an international hub, easily accessible, and well positioned to attract more overseas investment.
For anyone who lives in or has visited Greater Manchester recently, it is clear to see our city-region is booming. Each week we see companies creating new jobs and cranes continuing to lift skyscraper after skyscraper in to our ever-changing skyline.
But we’re not simply enjoying our current successes, we’re setting strong foundations for our city-region’s future. Earlier this month, at a time of real national uncertainty, Greater Manchester Leaders set out radical plans to ensure our city-region can continue to thrive.
HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are key parts of these plans. These projects will allow Piccadilly Station and its surrounding areas to be wholly transformed and used to their full potential. Manchester Piccadilly could become one of the best connected and most productive locations in the North of England.
However, we must ensure that new station infrastructure at Piccadilly is built for future growth and not just to a budget. Ministers should not risk fracturing the broad agreement that exists in support of these two schemes across the North by watering down a proposal to build a world-class station at Manchester Piccadilly.
It is time that Westminster showed it is listening and is ready to deliver the Northern Powerhouse that we have been promised.
Andy Burnham is the mayor of Greater Manchester