The Secretary for Transport Philip Hammond has business leaders in Manchester that the planned £32billion high-speed rail network would end the north-south divide ‘for good’.
However, Mr Hammond warned the prospect of not building the network was something he did not want to contemplate.
The high-speed network will see bullet trains capable of speeds up to 250mph connecting Manchester and London in just 73 minutes, compared to the average two-and-a-half hour journeys travellers’ face at the moment.
Mr Hammond told delegates meeting at Manchester’s Park Inn: "I believe that we have the possibility through this high-speed rail investment to tackle, once and for all, the gap in economic growth performance between the south-east of England and the remainder of the country.
Mr Hammond believes that it is essential for the UK as a whole to have a high-speed network rail, if the UK is to be competitive in the global economy, and that the rail line is not just for the benefit of the north.
The first phase of the high-speed network to Birmingham is expected to open in 2026, with an extension to Manchester up and running by 2032. The predictions are that it would slash journey times to London considerably and free up extra capacity on the existing rail network.
More than 100 key business leaders have put pen to paper and signed plans backing the proposal to bring high-speed rail to Manchester.
However the rail line will have to fight off bitter disapproval from resident groups and local councils, along the route of the line from London to Birmingham, who are opposed to the idea.
Reports suggest that the Government believe the network will create 40,000 jobs, and benefit the national economy by £44billion over 60 years. Sir Richard Leese, Manchester’s Council leader reportedly told the congregation that support for high-speed rail in Britain's major cities is unanimous.
David Frost, the director general of British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Economic growth is over-concentrated in the south-east.
"We have to spread economic growth more widely across the UK and high-speed rail is a vital tool in the armoury of doing this."
By Ben Malkin
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