CALLS for a proposed high speed railway line into Liverpool have been back by political and business leaders in St Helens, due to the potential economic benefits that could be brought to the town.
Current plans for the High Speed 2 rail line see only the cities of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London set to be connected to the HS2 grid.
However, city leaders in Liverpool have pushed for the controversial £40billion plans to be extended to run directly into the maritime city.
There are concerns that if Liverpool does not get a high speed rail line, freight trains carrying goods to and from the Port of Liverpool will have to compete for space against passenger trains.
If the calls to extend the proposed 250mph line are successful, the council believes that St Helens would receive enhanced economic benefits as a result.
Council leader Barrie Grunewald said: “We believe that extending HS2 to Liverpool would bring benefits for the entire city region and that could bring major benefits for St Helens – by freeing up extra freight capacity on the existing west coast mainline – something that would enhance our vision for the new Parkside employment area.
“Equally, a high speed link into the city would enable Liverpool, St Helens, Halton, Knowsley, Sefton and Wirral to play a much fuller role in the UK’s economic recovery.
“Studies also show that adding just another 20 miles of track to the 330-mile scheme would make this small section far more profitable than the national average.”
Critics of HS2 claim the plans are too expensive and that it would erode parts of the countryside.
Dave Watts, the St Helens North MP, is on record as saying he believes the jaw dropping cost of the project is too much and suggested an improved link between west and east coasts may be a wiser investment.
However, it has support among business leaders.
Tracy Mawson, director of business services at St Helens Chamber, added: “The chamber welcomes the prospect of high speed rail coming to the Liverpool City region.
“Anything that opens up the region to greater trade and investment can only be of benefit to the local economy and local businesses.
“The expansion projects at the Port of Liverpool will also bring a welcome boost to St Helens firms, as the supply chain develops and trade grows within the city region. Improving the rail network in the city region to have greater capacity for freight will also have a positive impact on St Helens companies.”