Will British business have to foot the bill for HS3?
Andrew Jones, junior minister for transport, has said that the proposed £70 billion improvement plan for Northern England’s transport system may suffer for lack of taxpayer funding amid competition from other projects.
Speaking at the Transport for the North conference in Sheffield, the railways minister said “difficult decisions” had to be made for the scheme to be included in the legislation for the northern stage of HS2 when put forward in parliament.
The Northern Powerhouse Rail, a fast rail line which would link the north’s six main cities and Manchester airport, forms the centrepiece of Transport for the North's 30-year infrastructure plan to modernise the rail network.
Officials say this plan, previously known as HS3, would help to create 850,000 jobs by 2050. Northern business leaders, however, fear they may not be able to financially support the project.
To contrast, London has asked businesses to fund half of the £26 billion cost for Crossrail 2. This is a feat which Tim Wood of Northern Powerhouse Rail states could not be matched by northern companies: “We have had underinvestment for decades. We cannot afford it in the North. We are not at that level of productivity.”
Comments made by Jones may mirror concerns that parts of the government were developing cold feet over HS2 due to cost pressures.
These concerns come in spite of assurances from transport secretary Chris Grayling that the north would not be “betrayed” by abandoning HS2 beyond Birmingham.
Nonetheless, previous head of the rail watchdog, Stephen Galister, has said that the budget for HS2 could have been better spent on other projects to upgrade railways in the midlands and north of England.