20 Miles More, Joe Anderson and ResPublica take their messages to Labour Party Conference
Speaking at a Labour fringe entitled “From HS2 to HS3: A high speed route to re-balance Britain?” were:
- Shadow Infrastructure Minister Lord Adonis
- Shadow Political and Constitutional Reform Minister Stephen Twigg
- Labour Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson
- ResPublica Director Phillip Blond
The event was hosted by ResPublica. Transport Times Chief Executive Professor David Begg was in the chair.
Opening the meeting, the Chair declared that the result of the Scottish independence referendum and the resulting further pledges on devolution was good for transport policy.
He pointed to the successes of Scotland and London as good examples of transport devolution.
The north of England needed to mobilise and grasp the opportunities posed by constitutional change, the Chair said.
On the subject of constitutional change, he urged the attendees not to pursue the idea of an English assembly, which he believed would end up being dominated by London and the South East.
Instead, the Chair called for power to be devolved to the city regions.
Commencing his remarks, Lord Adonis credited Transport Times with helping to win him over on the case for high speed rail whilst he was in government.
Any English devolution must come with an elected component and this would be integral for any transfer of transport powers, the Shadow Minister said.
Turning to HS2 and HS3, Lord Adonis emphasised that the existing rail network could only be refitted at massive cost.
“This is what you will have to go through unless you invest in new capacity between major conurbations”, he told the meeting.
Lord Adonis called for the major cities of the Midlands and the North to be brought together by HS2.
It would be a transformation if it were possible to travel between key cities in 30 minutes or so, he said.
The original railway had never been built to be connected, being originally designed as a series of freestanding lines to London, the Shadow Minister explained.
HS3 would be “the Crossrail of the North”, Lord Adonis declared.
He noted that the programme of electrification had begun under the last Labour Government and had continued under the Coalition.
“We need transformed connectivity both between northern cities and London and between the key cities”, Lord Adonis remarked.
Noting the importance of building cross-party consensus on big infrastructure projects, he urged Labour to support the Government’s proposals on HS3 if the party believed it would deliver for the North.
By supporting the plans, it would be easy to build support for legislating for the new line, Lord Adonis concluded.
Hailing Labour leader Ed Miliband’s policy of a constitutional convention on the future of the UK, Mr Twigg praised the work of elected city mayors like Joe Anderson.
He supported the case for extending high speed rail to Liverpool, emphasising that it would bring a greater economic impact to the city.
The Shadow Minister approved of the idea of creating a mayoralty for a metropolitan area like Merseyside.
It would be important for Liverpool to share in the enormous benefits that HS2 would eventually bring to the whole country, Mr Twigg declared.
If an elected mayor was good enough for London, then it was good enough for Merseyside, Mr Anderson declared.
He explained that the Core Cities Group had nearly been outflanked on HS2, crediting the success in pushing the project forward due to lobbying by city leaders.
It was important to invest in modernising infrastructure to keep the UK ahead of its competitors, Mr Anderson said.
HS2 only needed to be extended by 20 miles more to connect into Liverpool, he told the fringe.
Mr Anderson said that HS2 could not be delivered without improving east-west connectivity via HS3.
Noting Liverpool’s investment in a super port, the Mayor emphasised that the freight industry viewed rail as viable option for moving goods, particularly as rising diesel prices impacted on travel by road.
He recalled that the case for investment in Liverpool was being made to the highest levels of the Government and the Opposition.
“We need to articulate the case for HS3 to connect the North and ensure that we are not left behind in terms of investment, Mr Anderson said.
“It is not just about the regeneration of the North West. It is about the regeneration of the UK”, he concluded.
“What we desperately need is strategic thinking in the Conservative Party”, Mr Blond said.
He said that a “strong Tory presence” in the north was necessary for the good of the country.
Praising the “northern powerhouse” concept put forward by Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Blond warned that many areas of the country felt abandoned and forgotten.
Left and right had responded to globalisation in the same way and left certain parts of the country to “wither on the vine”, he said.
Mr Blond claimed that the UK was already a divided nation and that fewer people were getting ahead in life.
Labour was ahead of the Conservatives in arguing that there were some failures in modern capitalism, he remarked.
HS2 and HS3 were part of the “crucial answer for rebalancing the UK economy”, Mr Blond declared, but cautioned that it would not solve the problem of low wages and falling living standards.
He believed that the case for HS2 was strengthened by HS3 because the latter would help connect the core northern cities.
If Liverpool did not get high speed rail then it was doomed to become a small, seaside town that was never visited, the ResPublica Director told the meeting.
Mr Blond forecast that the development of the super port in Liverpool and resulting international trade would lead to increased economic benefits.
Rail connections were important to help move this economic benefit across the region and help unlock its potential, he explained.
“If we are interested in rebalancing [the UK economy]… infrastructure that delivers opportunity is the only way to do it”, Mr Blond said.
20 Miles More Director Andrew Morris asked if Liverpool should be connected to a high speed rail network given its economic importance and size.
Responding, Mr Twigg said that economic rebalancing could not be achieved unless Liverpool was included within HS2.
He said it was important to make the case for at all levels of decision making.
“HS3 is pro-poor and pro-north”, Mr Blond added.
He added that there was a risk that Liverpool would not be included within any new proposals for the North.
A proposal for a high speed rail link into the city should be included with the One North report, Mr Blond continued.
The Chair said that many northerners did not appreciate just how powerful a political force they could be if they lobbied together.
Up to 20,000 more people could look to make Liverpool their home if connectivity was improved, Mr Anderson said.
Questioned over the process of further devolution, Mr Twigg was reluctant to go down a regional approach that had been adopted by the last Labour Government.
A representative of Carillon, drawing on her experience of living in the North East, asked if Newcastle and Leeds should be connected by a high speed rail line.
Responding, Mr Anderson did not believe that the Government had either a national or regional transport plan.
“I just want to make the case that we go ahead with HS2 and HS3”, he said.
For every pound spent on transport projects in the north, another nine was spent in London, Mr Blond said.
He suggested that London should have “no right of veto” over infrastructure funding for the North.
Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Alan Pugh asked if HS1 and HS2 should be connected.
The Chair suggested that “a bit of freight line” could connect the two routes.
Later in the meeting, Mr Blond declared that a national infrastructure plan should be driven from a local level.
NEWS RELEASE: Liverpool HS2 case “being heard in the right places,” say campaigners.
20 Miles More, Joe Anderson and ResPublica take their messages to Conservative Party Conference
Speaking at a Conservative fringe event entitled ‘From HS2 to HS3: A high speed route to re-balance Britain?’ were:
- Conservative Universities, Cities and Science Minister Greg Clark
- Conservative Government Transport Spokesperson peer Lord Popat
- Labour Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson
- ResPublica Director Phillip Blond
The event was hosted by ResPublica with Adam Hewitt from Rail Technology Magazine in the chair.
First to speak, Mr Blond argued that HS2 and HS3 mattered because the state and economy had failed, particularly for the north of the country.
He said that it was no coincidence that regions in Scotland where unemployment was above average had voted for independence. There was “a disconnect” there, and the same applied to the North of England, he believed.
London was one of the most important global cities, he declared, but it had done terrible damage to other areas of the UK. Most of the country had been built on an equitable model, but this had led to a postcode lottery, he said.
Continuing, Mr Blond said that the country had failed to create the same prosperity for northern regions that it had for those in the south east.
He suggested that people in the north were “living lives of quiet desperation as things got worse”, arguing that there was a strong need for a new economic settlement for the north of England.
Citing a new ResPublica publication, Devo Max – Devo Manc, he called for the state to finally deliver for those people in the north who relied on it. It was vital to create economic opportunities in those regions, he argued.
A new economic model in the north would have to be led by infrastructure, he contended, and might eliminate the sense that children had to leave those regions for London in order to succeed in their ambitions.
Britain’s second tier cities performed far worse than those in countries in the rest of Europe, he explained. Comparing Marseille to Manchester, he argued that this needed to be urgently addressed.
Asking what should be done, he suggested that best course of action was to build HS3. There must be a new link between Hull and Liverpool, he declared.
If it was not constructed, he believed that there would be a huge drain on northern cities.
Continuing, Mr Blond said that there should be a direct high speed link to the port of Liverpool, linking the city and the rest of the UK to Ireland. This was also important because, as the canal was widened, traffic there was due to quadruple.
Construction on the link should be started between Liverpool and Manchester, he suggested, as this was the “most compelling branch of the line”. This held, he claimed, even with the most pessimistic figures predicting its likely economic benefits.
“We need a northern super-city”, he said, and the best location for this was between Liverpool and Manchester.
Mr Blond, continuing his argument, explained that this would help create a more balanced economy.
Adding to this, he pointed out that building the northern part of HS2 or HS3 first made sense because it would be cheapest segment.
Describing Dr Clark as “a lone visionary” about the type of cities Britain needed to create in the north, he suggested that this would benefit the south east also, as it would redress overcrowding.
Concluding, he said that a new constitutional offer, including devolution within England, was desperately needed, especially if the Conservative Party did not want to create another region, after Scotland, which it was almost completely alienated from.
The north of England could decide the next General Election, he concluded.
Opening, Dr Clark joked that he was expecting Labour Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson to defect to the Conservatives. He described how Liverpool was unique as a city, and had different needs from Britain’s other “great cities”.
These needed to be reflected in how these cities were governed, he believed, due to their political, cultural and industrial differences.
He noted that the new mayoralty had helped Liverpool secure the International Festival for Business 2014.
Dr Clark described the business festival as a tremendous success – one which had put the city on the map as somewhere to do business.
Continuing, he said that Mr Anderson was now undertaking the same role as London Mayor Boris Johnson, representing his city democratically and bringing its interests to Westminster.
It was important to create new, deeper connections among the northern cities, he said.
Concluding, Dr Clark argued that if “the glories of these great cities” could be brought together through better transport infrastructure, then they could be a serious rival to London as a great British hub.
Next to speak, Lord Popat suggested that the UK was not good at building transport infrastructure, despite its large economy.
HS2 was about capacity and growth, he argued, and that although it would cost £42bn, it was a worthwhile investment.
Continuing, he said that the Government had a strong record on delivery, Crossrail for example, but that more could be done.
Turning to exports, he said that Britain had a shortfall that effected its financial position, and was borrowing more money as a result.
Lord Popat hailed the potential of Britain’s northern cities, indicating that it would be beneficial for HS3 to arrive as soon as possible to help balance the economy and generate more exports.
Britain needed a new industrial policy that had infrastructure at its centre, as this was the only way to rebalance the economy, he said.
Next to speak, Mr Anderson paid tribute to Dr Clark for delivering Liverpool’s City Deal. Progressive politicians from all the major parties understood that further devolution to major cities was integral, he said.
He explained that there would be millions of pounds worth of new business as a result of the International Festival for Business that had taken place that summer.
Mr Anderson said that cities were like magnets: they sucked in people and capital from their surroundings. It was therefore important, he believed, that they were all given power in order to avoid an unbalanced economy.
Continuing, he said that a strong north was also good for the south, as it was good for Britain plc.
Turning to HS2, Mr Anderson said that he went against Labour on the project. He believed that it was good that it was being debated, as it allowed the party to talk about HS3.
There was a real need for connectivity, he declared. While there should be a discussion about devolution, it was also incumbent on political parties to help regenerate and grow the UK as a whole to prevent further disconnect between the electorate and Westminster.
Mr Anderson said that HS3 was an economic “no brainer” and the expected benefits were obvious to all.
He pointed out that so much money would be invested in the project in the area that it would make “absolutely no sense” to not put in the extra 20 miles of track to Crew.
Moving on, he described the opportunity to increase capacity for large freight, saying this would benefit Liverpool and the rest of the UK.
It was imperative that Liverpool was able to move the amount of freight entering the city, which was set to quadruple.
The first questioner commented that the trains used on HS2 and HS3 should not be designed as if they were “planes on a track”.
Lord Popat assured him that time would be taken to get the designs of trains correct.
Next, the panel was asked what was being done to relieve pressure on roads.
In reply, Mr Anderson said that both parties were failing to deliver transport infrastructure plans that were joined-up across both rail and road.
Adding to this, Lord Popat said that £136m had been invested in roads, and that more would follow in the years to come.
Mr Blond then that every city would want to be connected to the high speed network, so that it was important to redesign the route so that it would be “future proof”. Otherwise, it might not be extendable to Bristol and Liverpool and other cities.
Continuing, he argued that it was vital that the right tax incentives were introduced to propel the project forward. Innovative thinking could help dramatically slash the cost of this infrastructure, he claimed.
A Cheshire East Councillor then asked whether construction on the new project should start at Crewe, rather than elsewhere. She argued that this would help speed the process up.
In reply, Mr Blond said that he was “route agnostic”, and what he really wanted was a commitment to the project.
He announced that ResPublica was going to work with both Labour and Conservative MPs and ministers to generate support for the project, suggesting that this was an opportunity to win political support in the north.
Responding to a question on how Liverpool could help retain its ambitious young people, Mr Anderson suggested that controlling its own business rates would be start.
He also called on the city to be able to run its own employment programmes, as those in the city knew where the greatest growth was occurring. This model was common across the world and the UK should follow, he argued.
Closing the session, Mr Blond said that ResPublica had produced a comprehensive report on devolution, which could help create self-sustaining cities and prosperity.
Arguing that more autonomous cities were more prosperous, he called for direct elections in new authorities so that mayors could stand or fall by their promises.
Adding to this, Mr Anderson said that he sympathised with calls for further devolution, as it improved accountability. He argued that there needed to be fully professional regional government structures, as it made no sense for part-time councillors to be in control of billions of pounds of public spending.
Liverpool Mayor bangs the drum for HS2 at Conservative party conference in Birmingham
Liverpool Mayor and Labour icon Joe Anderson strode into the Conservative party conference in Birmingham yesterday to make the case for the city joining the planned high speed rail network.
At a packed fringe session the mayor banged the drum for a 20-mile fast connection between Crewe and Liverpool.
He said: “Economically, it’s a no-brainer. It is absolutely there for everybody to see in terms of growth, the number of jobs, GVA…
“It’s absolutely madness not to consider it.”
Mr Anderson said the massive expansion in the capacity of Liverpool’s port made the case for better transport connections even more urgent.
He said: “We are investing as we speak £320m in a super-port [so] we will be able to accommodate the biggest ships that come into our country in the North West… It’s about connecting to Edinburgh, it’s about connecting to Glasgow, it’s about making our great cities connected.”
He challenged the Conservatives in the packed hotel room and “progressives in all parties” to champion the case for high-speed rail links.
Mr Anderson said the investment in Liverpool’s port would create more than 5,000 jobs and “quadruple” the amount of freight that comes into the city.
He said: “We’ve got to get it out. We’ve got to make sure that we’re able to transport that…
“For me the case for HS3 and HS2 is overwhelming.”
Phillip Blond, the founder of the Respublica think tank which hosted the event, stressed the need for infrastructure investment, saying: “There’s no economic offer that can transform the North unless it’s led by infrastructure… It’s imperative and vitally important to the future of the north of this country that we have high-speed rail going from Liverpool to Hull.
“If we can create that, that makes everything else worthwhile. Otherwise, if we just build HS2 as currently planned, what it will be is a valley that draws all the water from all the economies surrounding it.”
Conservative Cities minister Greg Clark paid tribute to Mr Anderson’s achievements as Liverpool’s first elected mayor.
He said: “The establishment of the Mayor of London has resulted in a new spring in the step of that city.”