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Rail Minister indicates an appetite to establish a high speed network well beyond the scope of the first phase of HS2.

As the first phase of HS2 entered a new stage, Minister of State for Transport Simon Burns held out the prospect of further extensions to this line beyond the current plans to reach Manchester and Leeds.

Reiterating the Governments stated aim of HSR as a driver to re-balance the national economy, both in sectoral and regional terms, the Minister said: “you’ve got to see high speed rail as proposed as a spine up the country. In the future there is no reason why you may not see spurs into South Wales for example, or Liverpool, or maybe across the east of the country, or down to the South West.”

We have always made the case that the distinction between the HS2 project and a wider HSR network is key because the developmental effects of a national HSR network would be different from the effects of a major single scheme. Greengauge21 has previously identified a number of key features of the developmental impacts of HSR that will stimulate the economies of the key regional cities. In contrast to London, these cities have lower housing prices and a greater appetite for major urban regeneration, and so the consequential effects on these cities are likely to be large and diverse, and so a transformational prospect for decentralisation.

Work carried out on Greengauge 21’s behalf by KPMG has illustrated the positive impacts to be derived from Britain establishing a HSR network:

This research highlights the connectivity advantages that an HSR network brings; advantages that extend well beyond those places that are on the network itself, and include the capacity for greater local and regional use that will become available on existing railway lines, the expansion of labour market catchments (benefitting second tier towns and cities) and positive changes in the basis upon which locations will be evaluated for investment.

Following last year’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport to launch a study into connecting HS2 with Scotland, the rail Minister also confirmed the joint feasibility study on taking the line further north and to Scotland. We have previously consulted with relevant transport authorities, local enterprise partnerships and other organisations in the North of England and produced evidence that a high-speed line between northern England and Scotland would offer very good value for money and would deliver substantial carbon savings.