Frank McKenna

    Chief Executive, Downtown in Business

    Despite the fact that the project is one of the most important infrastructure schemes ever proposed for the north of England, there remains a huge amount of apathy from business leaders to the much discussed and debated High Speed 2.

    This is largely because the new fast tracks from London to the North are not likely to be laid anytime before 2026, with full completion not due until 2032. Add to that timescale the inevitable delays that seem to accompany every major British infrastructure project, and we’re more likely looking at 2035, by which time many of us will be eligible for a senior citizens rail card – if we’re still here at all.

    However, this is to miss the point of how the North and its great cities and regions can market, promote and attract investment.

    Speaking to several overseas visitors and potential investors over the past few weeks at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool, and it is interesting to note that they are vaguely curious about the past ten years; certainly interested about the next ten; but most quizzical about what strategies and plans are in place for the next twenty five years.

    If you are representing a company that is looking to relocate or establish a major brand in a new city, then it is not unreasonable for you to want to be confident that your investment is being made in a place that has a sustainable, long term future.

    This is why the winning of the argument about HS2 is so crucial. And then HS3 on the back of it, to better connect northern cities together.

    Getting to London thirty minutes quicker may or may not be a killer HS2 argument for many, but HS3, the ability to then connect Manchester to Leeds on modern, high speed trains and tracks must surely win the approval of any serious business leader in the north.

    Whilst London continues to plough hundreds of millions of pounds improving its infrastructure, and is squabbling not about ‘if’ a new airport but ‘where’, there is not a whisper of discontent from the Capitals chattering classes or the Westminster political fixers. Money spent in the south, it seems, is unquestionably well spent.

    The nonsense spoken of in terms of the costs surrounding HS2 must be seen as what they are – an antiquated vision of a dilapidated, slow moving north, grateful to be kept afloat by the crumbs from an ever growing, indeed overflowing, South East table.

    Of course the renaissance of our big cities in modern times, Leeds, Liverpool and particularly Manchester, has been remarkable. But for us to continue and indeed accelerate the progress of our region, then investment not only in rail, but on our road networks too, is absolutely essential.

    HS2 and HS3 may not be here in your lifetime – but those international companies and investors want to be confident that it will be here at some point. And that is why HS2 is important now, and why we must fight enthusiastically for it to be delivered.



    Local leaders are clamouring for connection to a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds, after chancellor George Osborne announced plans yesterday.

    Mr Osborne told an audience in Manchester that he was only ‘starting the conversation’ about the High Speed 3 (HS3) project, admitting that plans for the high speed rail connection have not yet been set in concrete.

    While emphasising that he only wanted the UK to ‘start thinking about’ the project, the chancellor said his proposed route should feed in to David Higgins’ review of the second phase of HS2.

    Cities across the north of England seized on Osborne’s proposals, immediately putting pressure on the Government to widen the scope and include more cities in any HS3 line.

    Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson – whose work on City Deals was name-checked in Osborne’s speech – said the early phases of any link ‘must’ be established in his city.

    ‘I welcome Mr Osborne’s comments but we will be pressing home our conviction that the first phase of this East / West link can be and must be from Liverpool,’ Mr Anderson said.

    ‘It is an affordable piece of investment that will guarantee a massive financial return as well as beginning the vitally important task of connecting our great Northern cities.’

    Business campaign group 20 Miles More said Osborne’s plan ‘strengthened’ the ‘compelling’ argument for a direct HS2 connection to Liverpool. Their calls followed a commitment from the Liverpool City Region to continue lobbying for inclusion on the London to Birmingham route.

    Further pressure on the Government came from Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which said its city remained the ‘only missing piece in the jigsaw’ for Osborne’s HS3 plan.

    ‘The Government has already invested heavily in our Powerhouse Central City Deal. It makes sense to plug the city into the High Speed Rail network to maximise the value of that investment,’ council leader Mohammed Pervez said.

    ‘An east-west HS3 link would cement into place this super-regional concept. The Stoke Route would maximise the economic output of the new national powerhouse by including the largest urban area between Birmingham and Manchester.’

    Pervez confirmed he would be writing to the chancellor to reiterate the region’s plans for an HS2 station.

  • City Talk Interview

    Frank Mckenna is joined by Philip Blonde, Stuart Fitzgerald, Chris Arnold and Clive Drinkwater to talk about HS3 & asks if Liverpool has missed out?

    Listen here



    The Institute of Directors has welcomed the Chancellor’s proposal for a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds – but warned it has to extend to Liverpool to fully realise the idea of a northern ‘economic powerhouse’.

    Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, said 80 per cent said improving inter-city rail links should be a priority, so the Chancellor’s vision was welcome.

    He added: “Infrastructure projects are a means to an end and targeted projects such as this are the vital foundations of genuine and sustainable economic activity.

    “Our northern cities have suffered from poor train links for far too long, and we believe this scheme has the potential to bring long-lasting benefits to the country as a whole. It makes sense to extend the high-speed service to Liverpool.

    “Any fast line would also need to be complemented by smaller road and rail schemes, building on the work already begun on the Northern Hub. IoD members expect London to be the main winner from HS2, so investment in connectivity is needed to allow great cities like Manchester and Leeds to compete with the South East.”



    The business group campaigning for High Speed 2 to be extended to Liverpool has claimed the move would also act as a lengthening of HS3.

    Chancellor George Osborne this week mooted the idea of a rapid rail line between Manchester and Leeds, the two cities at the end of the current proposed route for HS2.

    Andrew Morris, chair of campaign group 20 Miles More, said extending HS2 to Merseyside would create a more impressive HS3 in due course.

    “Mr Osborne’s comments are an endorsement of the case we have been making over the last six months about the logic of an east-west connection,” said Morris.

    “This strengthens an already compelling argument for a direct HS2 connection to Liverpool. Not only is the Liverpool link vital to the economic success of HS2 itself but it will create the first stage for a potential HS3.”