Andrew Morris, 20 Miles More

20 Miles More - high speed rail to Liverpool

The success of the Northern Powerhouse stands and falls on its ability to link the three great cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. However, high-speed rail doesn’t reach as far as Liverpool. Plans for HS2’s tracks stop at Crewe, with Liverpool’s high-speed trains spending most of their time trundling along low-speed tracks.

The Chancellor’s vision for HS3 is limited to a new link between Leeds and Manchester. Yet twice as many passengers travel between Liverpool and Manchester as between Leeds and Manchester, despite paying more for their tickets and suffering lower frequency and older, slower trains. 

“Together our northern cities can be more than the sum of their parts” Chancellor, George Osborne, Northern Powerhouse speech 

But why is Liverpool’s inclusion important?  The 2.4M who live in Liverpool’s metropolitan area contribute £46bn to national GVA, matching Manchester’s 2.7M population and £50bn GVA. The Northern Powerhouse needs a labour market and economy of critical mass if it is to counterbalance London and the South East. The triumvirate of northern cities has that critical mass. 

The Port of Liverpool is a national strategic asset. It’s the gateway to our two largest trading partners: Ireland and America. The £300M private sector investment in Liverpool 2, the post-Panamax port facility, will double port capacity. So why is it that HS2’s proposals will see Liverpool 2 being marooned, unable to access additional rail freight capacity released south of Crewe as high-speed trains crowd the existing lines in the North West?  The Chancellor risks building a Northern Powerhouse without critical mass and critical capabilities.

Liverpool is uniquely positioned for HS2 and HS3. It’s the largest city not on HS2, despite being only 20 miles from the main line. A western link from Liverpool would not only link Liverpool to the North-South HS2 route, but would simultaneously start a West-East HS3 route from Liverpool to Manchester, Leeds and the North. But a lack of joined-up thinking between the various proposals and bodies has failed to realise this unique opportunity. 

20 Miles More understand Liverpool must take the initiative as it did in 1830, when, with its growth constrained by poor transport infrastructure, it financed and built the world’s first intercity railway. 20 Miles More and the Mayor of Liverpool are working with Respublica to demonstrate Liverpool’s link is not only affordable, and fundable, but provides greater benefits that any other part of the high-speed network. We will be publishing our report imminently.

In 1830 Liverpool linked Britain to the world and built a railway that heralded the modern age. The Northern Powerhouse of the 2030’s needs to recapture that spirit and breadth of ambition.