82: Full speed ahead
The speech, delivered in Leeds, covered the development of the Northern Powerhouse as well as HS2. Its very title, ‘Transport has power to change the north’ left little to the imagination and its sub-title, ‘HS2 and £13 billion transport plan at heart of Northern Powerhouse’, was a clear demonstration that the two are fundamentally linked.
McLoughlin also used the speech as an opportunity to restate public support for HS2 which had been questioned by some. He went as far as saying ‘the general election was a massive vote of confidence in HS2’.
The speech also covered issues relevant to the future development of HS2. In particular:
- The spotlight is being shifted to Phase Two which includes considering bringing HS2 to Crewe ‘faster than planned’. That means a dedicated hybrid Bill ‘in this Parliament’. Phase Two announcements are promised ‘this autumn’.
- Speeding up construction of the Sheffield to Leeds line is being looked at.
- The Government is looking to spread the benefits of HS2 across commuter routes, local trains and freight as well.
- ‘Moving forward’ with plans for new high speed rail links (emphasis added as he did not talk about a line). This will no doubt be assisted by the promised appointment of a new independent chair for Transport for the North by the Autumn.
Much of what McLoughlin talked about requires more detailed work, especially around getting another Hybrid Bill into Parliament. Given the large number of Bills promised in the Queen’s Speech, Parliamentary time will be at a premium and Parliamentarians will be busy!
Whilst the speech contained little that was new or a surprise, it does again show the Government’s total commitment to HS2.
4 June 2015