The Government has launched a review into the HS2 high speed rail project, but business leaders in the county say the scheme should still go ahead.
HS2 would see a new railway line constructed from London northwards to take trains running at more than 200mph, but concerns have been growing about the cost and the impact on the environment.
The review will be led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee. A final report will be sent to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, with oversight from PM Boris Johnson and Chancellor Sajid Javid, by the autumn.
The review will look at options such as reducing the speed of the trains, making Old Oak Common the London terminus “at least for a period”, instead of Euston; building only Phase 1, between London and Birmingham; combining Phase 2a (extending the line to Crewe)with Phase 1; altering plans for Phase 2b, which currently involves taking the line to Manchester and Leeds.
Alan Welsh from the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said HS2 should go ahead.
He said: There is a strong economic case for delivering all phases of HS2. For too long businesses have had to cope with heavily congested Victorian-era railways – with passengers and freight traffic vying for priority.
"HS2 will provide much-needed capacity to Britain’s rail network and free up space for local and freight services on existing lines. The delivery of other transformational schemes, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, rely on the connections that HS2 will make.
HS2’s importance goes far beyond train services. Its anticipated completion is already attracting investors and will continue to attract investment to surrounding areas, rejuvenate local economies and create opportunities for businesses across the supply chain.
"While no project should have a blank cheque, businesses in our region will be concerned about the potential for further delays to HS2. This review must work at pace with our business communities to improve and hone this crucial infrastructure project, which is so important to business confidence.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “HS2 is a vital project to help rebalance the economy and make us more productive, alongside linked interventions including most notably Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“The Northern Powerhouse Partnership will be engaging positively with the review to make the case for why HS2 is so necessary, for cities like Leeds and Manchester, but also for those like Newcastle, Preston and Glasgow, which all benefit from significantly better connections under an integrated plan for a new railway to take city to city traffic off our largely Victorian network which we need for commuters and freight.”