The Institute of Public Policy Research has become the latest body to say that HS3, providing better rail links across the Pennines, should be prioritised ahead of HS2.
In a report which highlights the ‘stark’ shortfall in investment between the North of England and London, with £280 per person due to be spent on infrastructure projects in the North, with London getting £1,870. The IPPR says Government should take advantage of record low government borrowing costs to fund HS3, a rail version of the M62, which would include a link to Newcastle and points in between.
Tom Kibasi, director of IPPR London, said that HS3 project should take precedence over HS2;
“Given the Brexit result, the North of England must urgently see growing prosperity. A proper east-west crossing would boost Northern and UK growth, and must now take priority above all other major transport projects, including Crossrail 2 and HS2.”
The response from Chris Grayling was a shadow of what we might have expected a month ago. Whilst any quote which would have come from former Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin would have included a line such as; “The case for HS2 is crystal clear”, his successor chose not to even mention HS2, saying:
“As the Prime Minister has said, we will govern for the whole United Kingdom and look to build an economy that works for everyone. That is a top priority and the reason we have set-up a new Cabinet committee to deliver on this commitment, with a strong industrial strategy at its heart.”
“Transport for the North are working to develop a Northern Transport Strategy and we are already making the biggest investment in transport infrastructure in generations, spending £13 billion in transport across the region to improve journeys for local people, help industry grow and boost productivity.”
“The Government has already committed £60 million to preparatory work on the HS3 line between Manchester and Leeds and options are already being considered for a trans-Pennine tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield as well as improvements to the A66, A69 and the north-west quadrant of the M60.”
The IPPR are not the first to say HS3 is more important than HS2, with North West business leaders voting for that by a ratio of 14-1 at Insider Medias Northern Powerhouse conference. Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has also said this should be the case, as did former Chair of the City Growth Commission Jim O’Neill, in one of the best sessions of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into HS2.
O’Neill was later made ‘Infrastructure Tsar’ by David Cameron, and whilst he has kept relatively quiet about the respective merits of HS2 and HS3 since then, he may well have now found the space to find his voice.