The big announcement from the Prime Minister during the party conference season was the decision to cancel the remaining leg of HS2 not currently under construction, and to reinvest the £36billion of savings into other transport projects across the UK, with particular focus on the North and Midlands.
I know HS2 has long been a divisive issue, before I was elected in 2019 many constituents in Warrington South contacted me to raise their concerns over the proposed Golborne Link which would have cut through our area without bringing us any material benefit. It was why I and neighbouring MPs pressed Government Ministers to look at alternative proposals, which led to the removal of the Golborne spur from the original Crewe-Manchester HS2 Bill last year.
While I understand the appeal of a high-speed line connecting London to the North West, and capacity issues on the West Coast mainline, the ballooning costs of HS2 meant the Government had to seriously consider the project’s value for money. Long-term investment is vital, but there is nothing long-term about ignoring your real infrastructure needs so you can spend an ever-larger amount on one grand project.
I think the Prime Minister has made the right call by reallocating the funding for HS2 into hundreds of new transport projects, which will give every region better local connectivity. That’s what I’ve heard is most wanted on the doorstep, improved links between Warrington and neighbouring cities. This new plan is a better long-term investment of £36billion of taxpayers’ money which will deliver growth and opportunity.
Last week in Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak confirmed to me that Warrington will see the benefits of the £12billion investment into East-West high-speed lines between Manchester and Liverpool. Crucially this funding will allow for the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, providing faster and better rail connections for people living in northern towns like ours.
I’ve long argued the case for a hub station in Warrington to link the West Coast Main Line to Northern Powerhouse Rail and following my question to the Prime Minister, I also met with Rail Minister Huw Merriman to discuss using Warrington Bank Quay for this purpose. I’m pleased that the Rail Minister will soon be visiting Warrington himself to meet with local leaders so that we look at bringing these proposals to fruition.
This additional rail investment will not only provide greater capacity for passengers, reduced travel times and better links for towns and cities across our region, but importantly with it will bring more high paying jobs. For Warrington this will also mean opportunities for further business growth in the town centre and development on former industrial land surrounding Warrington Bank Quay station.
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