Intervention on HS2

Mike Kane MP's intervention in the debate on High Speed 2: 

I praise my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) for securing this timely debate. I have the most visited constituency in the north-west of England—in fact, 25 million people have visited it in the past 12 months. Hon. Members have probably guessed that Manchester airport is on my southern boundary, but that makes the issue very relevant to us.

Daniel Adamson, a Mancunian entrepreneur and engineer, coined the term “northern powerhouse” in 1860 when he built the Manchester ship canal. He wanted to create a continuous economic region from the estuary of the Mersey to the banks of the Humber estuary. We are focusing on HS2 and its impact—an impact like the ship canal had more than a century ago.

 

HS2 will drive growth in the north, as other Members have said, and help free up capacity, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) said. The west coast main line will be full by 2024. We need the extra capacity, but we also need a station at Manchester airport. That will be critical to ensuring that the benefits of the project are felt beyond Manchester as a whole, in the wider catchment areas. Any measures that help to reduce journey times and free up capacity on the existing network, enabling more places across the north to be connected to Manchester airport, will be most welcome.

 

One of the most important features of HS2 and a station at Manchester airport is the potential for wider rail network improvements. A connected network would potentially deliver truly transformational benefits for the north. Connectivity to and from Manchester airport is a key factor for airlines when they think about introducing new long-haul routes. With the current rail access, 3.5 million people are within a two-hour catchment area of Manchester airport using public transport, compared with 11 million and 12 million for Gatwick and Heathrow respectively. Currently, the only city that can be reached by rail from Manchester airport in 30 minutes is Manchester. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) alluded to, that situation exists following decades of Governments of both parties spending 90% of infrastructure investment on the south and the south-east.

 

I mentioned the transformational nature of a connected network. The current journey time from Manchester airport to Euston is two hours and 24 minutes. That will be revolutionised; it will come down to 59 minutes. If we do this right, it will open up whole new markets, from Hull to Liverpool, Chester and north Wales.

 

Let us look at the growth of comparator European airports and cities. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has a smaller immediate population than Greater Manchester, yet successfully draws a higher proportion of its passengers from further afield. That is supported by rail journeys around 30% quicker than those between Manchester and the likes of Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield. From Manchester airport, it currently takes 65 minutes to get to Liverpool and 73 minutes to get to Sheffield. If we introduced HS2 and HS3, those journeys would be reduced to 30 minutes. To get from Manchester airport to Leeds, it would take 10 minutes to get to Manchester city centre and another 30 minutes to get to Leeds—40 minutes in total. We would be linking three major airport hubs at Speke, Manchester and Leeds-Bradford, all for the cost of one Crossrail project—it would be the same length—and creating unheard-of runway capacity across the north.

 

We estimate that with the right rail improvements that opened up the catchment area and gave airlines access to more passenger demand, 20 to 30 new long-haul routes from Manchester airport would be made viable. I would like the Minister to respond to those points, and possibly pledge to follow through and ensure that the design and delivery of the HS2 works goes hand in hand with the delivery of a true east-west link as part of wider rail network improvements, and that both schemes are delivered at the earliest possible opportunity so that we can derive maximum benefit and close the north-south productivity gap as soon as possible. We are focused on Heathrow—we will be for weeks, months and years ahead—but we will get more bang for our buck in GDP as a country and an economy by investing in our northern infrastructure than we ever will by investing in runway 3 at Heathrow.

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