Business leaders have encouraged Manchester to make the most of the ‘once in a lifetime opportunities’ brought by HS2 – the planned high speed rail network.
Speaking at the launch of a new report from the HS2 Growth Taskforce, the scheme’s potential to change the face of the city’s business world was at the top of the agenda.
“I can’t think of any other time in my lifetime where you’ve had a 15-year lead in to a programme. It means there is an opportunity to make the most of that now,” said Mike Blackburn, chairman of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.
“We can only make that progressive if public authorities, private businesses, and others collaborate to make the most of it.
“We have to completely re-engineer how we function as organisations and how we connect over the next 40 to 50 years. To think differently with business heads on is huge.”
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of the Manchester Airports Group, insisted the project would assist its £800m Airport City scheme.
“We are thoroughly committed supporters of high speed rail. At the moment, we are looking at industries and companies to come into Airport City and set up a base for the next 100 years, so with high speed rail, connectivity will improve the opportunities of attracting and retaining businesses,” he said.
“We firmly believe HS2 will stimulate economic development and the future of our company.”
Chris Oglesby, chief executive of property firm Bruntwood, slammed claims HS2 would take money out of Manchester and into the south.
He said: “It’s been said a lot that we need a counterbalance to London for all sorts of reasons – not least because we have a lot of people in the regions but also for the country. Otherwise London will inflate itself and the country out of global competitiveness unless these cities are allowed to reach their potential.
“What our customers want now is shared space where they can come and meet and collaborate and that desire means more mobility is needed and greater connectivity, particularly between regional cities and the capital.
“Our cities have shown over the years just how well they respond to major catalysts, the IRA bomb, the Commonwealth Games, BBC City – we see HS2 as the next big catalyst to really drive in the cities in the next age of their development, all this nonsense about it dragging business out of the regions, we are very, very different places to what we were in the nineties.”