David Mowat yesterday took on critics of the HS2 project, saying that it would bring jobs and prosperity to the North West of England. He also took the opportunity to urge ministers to look at creating a connecting spur which would link Warrington with the new line, ensuring that the town would see some of the benefit from the project.
The Westminster Hall debate was requested by Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe. HS2 is the proposed plan to build a high speed railway line from London to Birmingham. The Government has announced that after leaving Birmingham, the line would split, with separate branches going to Manchester and to Leeds. The project would reduce the journey time from London to Manchester to just 80 minutes and would free up capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line.
Mr Mowat said:
"The economic figure that the average gross value added per head in London is about £30,000, whereas in the English regions, it is about £17,000. Such a huge difference does not exist in any other country in Europe. One way in which that can be fixed is through infrastructure investment. Even now, there is massively more infrastructure investment in London, with 60% more infrastructure capital spend per head in London than in the regions. The high-speed rail project is fundamental to the regeneration of large parts of the north of England and the midlands. It has been estimated that the link will generate over 30,000 new jobs in the English regions. In addition, there will be over £10 billion of GDP benefit in the North West. These are jobs we badly need.
"I do not want to minimise the impact of the environmental concerns, but the Government are the Government of the whole country, not just of the south-east of England and London. It is important that we properly weigh up some of the unpleasant environmental impacts against the greater good. Where we have areas of high unemployment, the ability of people who live there to enjoy their environment is much less than it would be otherwise. The Government also have a duty to take into account the impact on prosperity and employment throughout the country."