In spite of George Osborne mentioning Mars more often than HS2, there was a small amount relevant to HS2 watchers in the Autumn Statement document.
1.185 In June the Chancellor set out plans to make the cities of the north a powerhouse for the UK economy. He noted that economic analysis of urban growth in recent decades has highlighted 3 key themes. First, the importance of great cities linking together, particularly with strong transport connections. The Chancellor commissioned Sir David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd, to consider how to improve east-west connections across the north, a concept supported in the One North report, and in November 2014 the Deputy Prime Minister hosted Northern Futures to develop further ideas for growth in the north….
…1.190 In October, Sir David Higgins’ report concluded that a high speed rail link could significantly reduce journey times across the regions of the north. The Chancellor responded and announced the development of HS3, and the creation of Transport for the North, a new body that will be made up of the main northern city regions. The government, with Transport for the North, will produce a comprehensive transport strategy for the north. This will include options, costs and a delivery timetable for a HS3 east west rail connection, with an interim report in March 2015. The government is also analysing the possibility of accelerating construction of the HS2 Phase 2 route from north of Birmingham to Crewe, in order to bring the benefits of HS2 to the north sooner. This will be subject to decisions on phase 2 in 2015.
Stop HS2 comment: whatever the problems and benefits of different types of east-west links in the north, it looks clear that the government has decided any new rail connections will be high speed regardless of whether that is the right priority for users of transport. Although the government have announced £7billion for the Northern Powerhouse investments, they have also said over £6 billion of this will be spent on roads, leaving less than £1billion for everything else, including rail, ports, science packages and digital infrastructure.