SMR Column: Labour opposition to HS2 will cost Manchester jobs

I’m backing HS2 because it is the only viable way to increase commuter and intercity capacity on our railways for the next generation. I am backing HS2 because it will narrow the North/South divide, and I am backing it because it is estimated to create 60,000 new jobs in our city.

Local families and young people will benefit from the 10,000 construction jobs; 1,400 permanent operational jobs; and up to 49,700 jobs espected from maximising the development potential associated with station developments.

Manchester is set to be one of the biggest beneficiaries from HS2 and will be the only city outside of London to benefit from two new stations, next to Piccadilly and at Manchester Airport.

Last week the House of Commons voted to fund the initial stages of the project despite 18 Tories and 11 Labour MP’s rebelling. All four Labour Manchester MPs joined me in voting in favour, for now.

The Labour leader of the City Council, and the Chief Executive have both made it clear how vital HS2 is for Manchester’s future. But it is not the local Labour leadership that concerns me. My worry is their failure to persuade the national Labour party of the case for HS2.

Labour’s shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, used his set piece conference speech to question whether the scheme should go ahead. He was followed by several Labour MPs questioning whether the scheme should go ahead. Northern Labour leaders fearing their party’s will come out against HS2 have been touring the studios to fight a rearguard action.

It reminded me of the twice cancelled Metrolink, where just before an election the Labour party promised voters that Metrolink would go ahead, but once Manchester dutifully delivers Labour MPs Metrolink was forgotten until the next election cycle.

If Labour end their support for HS2, it will be a huge betrayal of Manchester and the North.

Once complete, HS2 will transfer approximately 9 million journeys from road to rail and 4.5 million from air to rail. By shortening train times, HS2 will also make investment and economic interest in regions outside of London and the South-East more attractive. 70% of the benefit of HS2 will happen in the regions. This is vital if we are to help rebalance the UK economy.

The environmental impact will be minimised by following existing rail or road transport corridors, using deep cuttings and tunnels, or, like in Manchester, tunnelling 30 metres under the ground.

For Manchester, HS2 is a no brainer. We need to stop the national Labour party from putting all those jobs at risk.


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