Time for Liverpool & the North to grab the chance for growth
As the last day of MIPIM in Cannes starts on an “Investing in the Northern Powerhouse” note, the north’s five major cities stand together on the brink of a potentially momentous government investment.
Times look like they could be set to change dramatically for connectivity in the northern regions as Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle late last year launched their One North plan.
Under the TransNorth connectivity plan, Liverpool in the west would be connected to the north, south and east by fast and efficient transport, making the Newcastle of tomorrow what second-city Birmingham is to us today, while – should it be given the green light – you can expect to see many more Sheffielders around our city in the years to come. You can also say goodbye to Pacers and traffic jams, and hello to new, revitalised and upgraded city region transport networks that are an asset to businesses from Chester to Barnsley and everywhere inbetween.
With HS2 (the government’s railway into London) being launched to much fanfare about “speed” and luxury, to us in the north it was inevitable that people would soon start making the comparison between the time it takes to get to London today (2 hours, give or take) with the sluggish time it takes to get to Newcastle (following recent improvements, 3 hours), and the decrepit nature of many local trains. The “One North” report is the culmination of the collective public irritation that appears to have struck a chord with local political leaders across the region, and subsequently with a government waking up to the reality that perhaps Adonis’ HS2 as initially sketched didn’t quite cut the mustard for many.
While some might might ask if it was an error not to prioritise these connections in the first place, the main thing that will matter to people in the north is that they do so now.
One North isn’t just an east-west railway line but instead a whole package of infrastructure improvements from the east coast to here in the west, ranging from ports being enabled to help ramp up exports and lower the cost of imports, through to new road interventions, and money ploughed into creating, upgrading and expanding local transport networks. As a major city with a growing SuperPort, and the truly excellent but not-quite-finished Merseyrail network that is yet to reach the city’s airport and eastern suburbs, this really could be something exciting, where – finally – Liverpool gets properly tooled up to perform at its A-game.
Liverpool, as we know, is already a pretty impressive city. So too are Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. And a light bulb seems to have gone on, somewhere, about this string of pearls lacking just a bit of shine and a thread.
From 20 Miles More perspective of course the prime excitement comes from the prospect of hooking Liverpool up to the High Speed rail network through an enhanced connection, meaning more faster trains to more destinations – that connectivity meaning business and jobs. Although this isn’t to say that the other aspects on offer are any less exciting or impactful. It is clear from the One North report that both national and local connectivity need to be delivered together to reap maximum results..
Undoubtedly there’ll be some in the city raising an eyebrow at the government’s formation of “Transport for the North”. The city’s businesses and people alike will certainly want to ensure that Liverpool’s interests are promoted and protected, with Merseytravel always having equal and fair access to resources to carry out their proposals, and true local determination as to what those priorities are (such as our city needing better connections to, and around, our wider area including North Wales). That is devolution, after all.
As to the prize, all of the north’s major cities currently have economic output below the norm, yet even so today collectively form one of Europe’s largest economies. Just taking the north-west’s Greater Manchester and wider Liverpool City Region, combined they each contribute half towards a £100bn in economic output pumped into the UK economy each year. What can we achieve when we enable each other to outperform?
For investors buying into the northern region right now, this represents a strong potential for growth from north to south and east to west. And this is no academic exercise; at the heart of the story behind the north’s present day economic output lie areas – in each and every city – where there is much need for jobs, investment and, fundamentally, for the people born there to have good things to realistically aim for in life. We’ve every incentive to be as invested in this venture emotionally as any business investor has monetarily.
This ambitious plan is a work in progress at this very moment, with the cities working with the government aiming for a March reveal. Word is that they’re not quite there yet with an apparent gap between the government’s “Northern Powerhouse” catchphrases and what it will actually commit to delivering. They will surely get there in the end: These investments aren’t just important to the northern cities, but with economic uplift estimates ranging from £67bn to £130bn (depending on how far the investments go) they’re truly valuable to the whole of the UK.
At the close of MIPIM Cannes 2015 it’s appropriate to talk about this, there being a clear and direct correlation between the government investing for success in our cities and businesses doing likewise. For a chancellor keen to see receipts go up and structural outgoings go down, the low billions asked for seem more like a bargain.
What a Northern Powerhouse could mean for Liverpool
2014 can be characterised as a year of solid growth for the North West. It was also a year when rebalancing the UK regions rose up the political and local agenda, with the North very much the focus of the devolution debate.
Liverpool has fantastic universities who already play a key role in knowledge and innovation; the NW has the highest number of apprenticeships in the country and skills are high on the agenda. With the emergence of the Combined Authority, there is a real appetite for devolved and decentralised powers.
In the following video I talk about how cities and regions need to build their own economic strengths and capabilities – not rivalling London and the South East, but replicating the characteristics that have made them successful. Click here to hear more.
As I talk about in the video, investment in transport infrastructure will play a fundamental role in creating a Northern Powerhouse. The fact it currently takes three and a quarter hours by train to travel about 130 miles between the two ports of Liverpool and Hull, is clearly not good enough and is counterproductive in getting the region to think collectively. While HS3 is a step in the right direction to improving transport links across the North, it is deeply disappointing that Liverpool remains out of the frame for both HS2 and HS3 rail links.
My fear is that without fit-for-purpose transport we will begin to see the emergence of a North-North divide, as secondary locations with poor connectivity struggle to attract business and jobs.
The ingredients are there for economic regeneration but, if investment in transport infrastructure does not extend to Liverpool, the City risks being left in the margins.
For more information please contact Martin Heath on 0151 224 108 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Manchester’s ‘Whitehall of the north’ deal shows Liverpool needs HS2, say campaigners
Liverpool is missing out on a huge investment opportunity if it fails to secure plans for its own high speed rail link up, it has been claimed.
The warning follows news that government tenants are in talks to take up to 430,000 sq ft of offices at the Mayfield regeneration site near Piccadilly Station in Manchester, close to the proposed high speed (HS2) station, scheduled to complete in 2026.
According to think-tank director Phillip Blond and campaigners for a direct High Speed rail link into Liverpool, news of the massive investment into the Manchester site proves the benefit of High Speed connectivity.
Mr Blond said: “If this happens it is a massive boost for Manchester city centre and its commercial economy. It would be a single deal equivalent to the entire volume of commercial offices let in Liverpool last year.
“The Mayfield project has been developed as part of an integrated City Region economic strategy and has been supported by all its authorities and public agencies. The same economic strategy has also underpinned Manchester’s case for both HS2 and HS3.
“We need to develop a similarly integrated approach in Liverpool City Region, and it’s why I agree with Mayor Anderson that a Metro-Mayor could provide us with the clout and coherence that we need to compete.”
The decision to relocate up to 430,000 sq ft of government offices to the Mayfield site, dubbed the “Whitehall of the North”, is another major boost to Manchester, which is at the heart of the proposed high speed network.
Regionally the Mayfield site has been seen as direct competition for the Pall Mall/Exchange Station area adjacent to Liverpool’s commercial district which has also been earmarked as an opportunity for civil service relocation.
The public policy think tank, ResPublica and business-led campaign group 20 Miles More believe the Manchester announcement underscores the competitive disadvantage that Liverpool will face unless it secures a direct link to HS2.
Independent pressure group 20 Miles More who launched Liverpool’s original public campaign for an HS2 link called the decision depressing and predictable, and its chair Andrew Morris said: “There is a similar opportunity in Liverpool at Pall Mall on the edge of our Commercial District which would probably be a more cost effective solution to Government Departments struggling under the burden of austerity.
“If we have similar assets and opportunities here, there must be another reason why yet again the investment is going to Manchester. Better connectivity must be a major part of the explanation.”
Liverpool link would be natural start for HS3′, says 20 Miles More campaign
By Jonathan Davies
Liverpool would be the natural starting place for HS3, according to 20 Miles More, the independent campaign group that kick-started the city’s big for a HS2 link.
The group’s comments come after a report by published yesterday (Monday) by Sir David Higgins, the chair of the HS2 project, which backed plans for an East-West link between Manchester and Leeds, dubbed ‘HS3’.
Andrew Morris, chair of the business-led 20 Miles More campaign, said:
“We were not entirely surprised that there were no new announcements about a potential HS2 link to Liverpool in the announcement. But the proposals for a so-called HS3 East-Est link are frankly disappointing.
“We very much agree with the view expressed by Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson that the idea that Livepool might not even be part of this investment would be shocking and illogical.”
20 Miles More is due to publish its own report advocating a comprehensive HS3 line starting with a connection between Liverpool and Manchester.
Martin Sloman, a co-author of the report, said: “In terms of existing passenger demand, proximity and economic links it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Liverpool and Manchester are already beginning to function as an embryonic super-city. In terms of population and international connections, via port and airport, they have the critical mass and potential to become a counterweight to London.
“If HS3 is about re-balancing the UK economy then Liverpool should be vital and not peripheral. Today’s announcement is in danger of unbalancing our regional economies and consolidating prosperity and investment within a narrow spine rather than across the full breadth of the north.”
Liverpool link would be a natural start for HS3
20 Miles more, who kick-started Liverpool’s bid for a High Speed rail link, has expressed its concern about the implications of the announcement by Government and HS2 Chair, Sir David Higgins, which sees the city still omitted from the proposed HS2 route in the Rebalancing Britain report.
20 Miles More believes that connecting Liverpool and Manchester under HS2 would then create the obvious starting point for any HS3 proposals to join up the major Northern cities on an East-West line.
Andrew Morris, chair of the business-led 20 Miles More group, explained:
“We were not entirely surprised that there were no new announcements about a potential HS2 link to Liverpool in the announcement. But the proposals for a so-called HS3 East – West link are frankly disappointing. We very much agree with the view expressed by Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson that the idea that Liverpool might not even be part of this investment would be shocking and illogical.”
20 Miles More are due to publish their own report advocating a comprehensive HS3 line starting with a connection between Liverpool and Manchester. Martin Sloman, who co-authored the report with Gareth Parr, commented:
“In terms of existing passenger demand, proximity and economic links it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Liverpool and Manchester are already beginning to function as an embryonic super-city. In terms of population and international connections, via port and airport, they have the critical mass and potential to become a counterweight to London. If HS3 is about re-balancing the UK economy then Liverpool should be vital and not peripheral. Today’s announcement is in danger of unbalancing our regional economies and consolidating prosperity and investment within a narrow spine rather than across the full breadth of the north.”
20 Miles More have pledged to redouble their own campaigning efforts and build the widest possible coalition behind the call for a direct High Speed link to Liverpool.
“We started this campaign with a very simple call for 20 miles of additional track to take HS2 to the UK’s western gateway and one of its fastest growing city economies. That call is now stronger than ever. That link needs to be considered as a next stage of HS2, and not simply an element of HS3 which, at the moment is nothing more than an uncosted aspiration.
`Those 20 miles would then provide the impetus for HS3 and stimulate the creation of a Northern Powerhouse at precisely the point where that potential already exists.”
Click here to see the Rebalancing Britain report