'High-speed Hull to Liverpool railway is going to happen', says transport minister
By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 30 Nov 2017
The transport secretary has told MPs the high-speed rail line connecting Hull to Liverpool is “going to happen” – giving the firmest Government commitment yet.
Known as HS3 or “Crossrail for the North”, the rail route would provide fast east to west train connections across the north, linking Hull directly to other major cities such as Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.
In August, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry – in a one-word answer – confirmed that HS3 would go-ahead.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has signalled his support for HS3
And Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, in a reply to Hull MP Diana Johnson in the House of Commons on Wednesday, gave the £7bn project its most senior backing yet.
The Labour Party has already confirmed it would commit to build a “Crossrail for the North” if elected to government.
Ms Johnson, MP for Hull North, asked whether the Cabinet minister thought “Crossrail for the North, between Liverpool and Hull, or Crossrail Mark II for London, between Surrey and Hertfordshire” would happen first.
London’s Crossrail 2 – which plans to better link the north of the capital to the west – is expected to cost between £27bn and £32bn and could open in 2033 if approved. Crossrail 1, linking east to west, will open next year.
Mr Grayling replied, saying the two project were “in lockstep” with each other and promised to press on with them both.
“They are both important, they are both going to happen and we are going to steer them in parallel,” Mr Grayling told Labour MP Ms Johnson.
The transport minister’s comment will be seen as a major win for the whole of the north. The Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce has the “Hullapool” rail line marked as the top transport priority for the estuary.
Dr Ian Kelly, chief executive of the chamber, has previously urged for HS3 to be given priority over HS3 – the high-speed route linking London, Birmingham, Crew and eventually Manchester and Leeds.
Diana Johnson MP quizzed the Transport Secretary on whether 'Crossrail for the North' would ever be built
The Department for Transport (DfT) is understood to be highly supportive of the HS3 concept but Whitehall is leaving the final proposals to Transport for the North (TfN), the new body which will be responsible for recommending connectivity solutions for the region.
It will be part of TfN’s role to work out how such a route would piece together and come up with a funding model for the cross-country construction, the Mail has been told.
The DfT says TfN has been given £60m to develop its plans.
Mr Grayling, before his exchange about HS3, had been updating the Commons on his long-term vision for restructuring the railways.
The DfT wants to restore moth-balled railway lines that were taken out of service during the 1960s and 70s, break-up large franchises and make it easier for smaller operators to run services.
Virgin Trains has been given a 'bailout' on its East Coast contract
The Government came under criticism for using the announcement to bury news of a “bailout” for Virgin Trains and Stagecoach partnership on the East Coast railway – which Hull connects to using the Selby line – only two years after the consortium took over running the service.
The East Coast rail franchise will be terminated three years early, to be replaced by a “partnership model”, after rumours emerged that Virgin was struggling to pay its annual bill.
In 2009, the former Labour government renationalised the East Coast line after National Express could not pay its yearly line rental.
After six years of being run publicly, in 2015 Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) paid £3.3bn to run the service until 2023 – a sum of which the company is likely to only pay a fraction of now, with the bulk of the payments written into the end of the contract.