LibLink: Nick Clegg says High Speed 2 is good for London

Writing in today’s Financial Times, Nick Clegg reasons that HS2 is good for London as well as the north.

He says that the capital’s long-term status as an economic global powerhouse will be threatened if housing and transport infrastructure inside London are not upgraded, and the links to and from the city are not improved. He cites Germany and Japan where good transport links have allowed prosperity to “flow from one part to another”. If we want to keep Britain among the world’s largest economies, Clegg argues, we must find a better way to link London to the rest of the UK.

There are forces who have always opposed doing anything big beyond London. They seem content to see the bubble blow up in the capital without providing any sort of valve for release. It has been going on for years, it has got to change and under this government it is.

Declaring he is “a stronger supporter than ever”, Clegg declares:

HS2 will not be a rail line in isolation but a tool for communication that will provide room for many more people to travel more easily, more quickly and more frequently at minimal environmental cost. It is needed. It will work. It will be affordable. It will provide space for growth. It will make our country stronger.

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  • On top of improved inter-region transport links, I think we need a long term investment plan to create regional centres of growth to compete with London and the south east. Ideally we need to be putting up investment funds to boost the universities in places like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle to the level of London, Cambridge and Oxford.

    We also need to look at what makes London so attractive to business and skilled graduates relative to cities in other regions to try to rebalance our economy. If we can boost their attractiveness as working and living places sufficiently to reduce the brain drain to the south east, that will help redress some of the problems we see today of hollowing out of regional economies.

  • I would also add, we need to improve the quality of what we are doing to tackle underinvestment in skills at the bottom end of the educational spectrum. Most of the underperforming regions do badly partly because of a deficiency of workforce skills and low levels of educational attainment, especially at the lower end. If we can link the receipt of benefits to the willingness to take up high quality training courses and apprenticeships, that will have a major effect in boosting workforce productivity and hence of business profitability in those regions.

  • Peter Watson 6th Sep '13 - 12:36pm

    I agree with what you write here.
    It depresses me immensely to think of HS2 as simply a means for us all to commute to London from dormitory cities around the UK.

  • Tony Greaves 6th Sep '13 - 4:26pm

    If Nick Clegg is setting out to lead the much-needed campaign for the much-needed new railway lines between the major regional centres in England – and beyond to Scotland – ie HS2 – this is excellent news.


  • What makes London the more attractive place to base a business in is the hub-and-spoke transport map with London at the centre. HS2 doesn’t change that. There needs to be much better East-West line linking Manchester to Leeds and on to the East Coast main line. Then it will make sense to base businesses in Northern cities.

  • HS hasnt done much for Madrid and Barcelona.

  • I hear the arguments for and against HS2, which will slice through a corner of our Chesterfield constituency, but where the nearest station will be Meadowhall or Totton. We can get to London in less than 2 hours anyway.

    If connectivity is what it is all about, I wonder whether this is the best bet. Rural areas like most of Derbyshire, and Cornwall where we were on holiday but without any signal on our phones, need top quality broadband more than fast trains they can get on to only with difficulty.

  • David White 7th Sep '13 - 3:40pm

    What a pity: The Dear Leader hasn’t done his research very well, has he?

  • Michael Parsons 8th Sep '13 - 11:22am

    Surely what we need is the reinstatement of local area networks by trains and trams in our city regions ands rural areas? And improved London commuter services for the long-suffering public there? Given economies of scale, which mean economic activity attracts more activity to itself by economies of concentration , the only thing HS2 (a rich man’s toy at best) is likly to achieve is yet more concentration of economic activity around London.

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