BUSINESS leaders across the region have urged the Prime Minister to throw his weight behind the full HS2 network.

Nineteen chairs of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the Midlands and North have signed a letter to Boris Johnson, including David Kerfoot, of York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP.

They say they have been working hard with partners across the private, public and academic sectors to support the local economies to grow, but stress: "The potential for further economic growth, productivity gains and improvements in standards of living is considerable. HS2 would unleash this potential; transforming towns, cities and communities. We therefore urge you to commit to the full HS2 network without further delay.

"HS2 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to level up the country’s economy. Significantly cutting journey times will redraw the economic map of the Midlands and the North, allowing jobs, investment and opportunity to flow through the regions."

With costs reportedly spiralling to £106bn, the future of the new railway line in full from London to the north of England has been thrown into doubt.

Supporters argue that the north would be dependent on an outdated Victorian infrastructure without it, and that it is a “key engine for growth".

The letter adds: "HS2 will provide urgently-needed capacity on the rail network; enabling people and businesses all over the UK to benefit from more frequent and reliable trains. When combined with promised investments in Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Engine Rail, it will create a network fit for the 21st century, unlocking significant growth, increasing productivity and enabling us to compete in the global economy."

The Northern Powerhouse Rail is a new £39bn line between Liverpool and Hull, designed to connect with HS2.

The LEP chairs go on to say: "The environmental benefits of HS2 should also not be underestimated. At a time when many of our local authority partners have declared a climate emergency, HS2 will encourage people and freight to move to low carbon train travel.

"These are not theoretical, future gains. The benefits of HS2 are being felt now. Across the Midlands and the North, jobs have been created, businesses have decided to invest, families have moved home and apprentices have started new careers, all on the back of HS2.

"We acknowledge that HS2 has its challenges and that costs need to be kept under control. However, the benefits are so significant and underpin the growth plans of all our LEPs that we urge you to back the project in full and seize this opportunity to level up the economy and change the lives and prospects of communities and businesses across the country."

The letter is signed by the following:

Stewart Towe, Chair of Black Country LEP

Jonathan Browning, Chair of Coventry & Warwickshire LEP

Elizabeth Fagan, Chair of D2N2 LEP

Tim Pile, Chair of Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP

Ursula Lidbetter, Chair of Greater Lincolnshire LEP

Kevin Harris, Chair of Leicestershire LEP

Alun Rogers, Chair of Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LEP

Mark Stansfeld, Chair of Worcestershire LEP

Christine Gaskell, Chair of Cheshire & Warrington LEP

Lord Richard Inglewood, Chair of Cumbria LEP

Mike Blackburn, Chair of Greater Manchester LEP

Lord Christopher Haskins, Chair of Humber LEP

Steve Fogg, Chair of Lancashire LEP

Roger Marsh, Chair of Leeds City Region LEP

Asif Hamid, Chair of Liverpool City Region LEP

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of North East LEP

James Muir, Chair of Sheffield City Region LEP

Paul Booth, Chair of Tees Valley LEP

David Kerfoot, Chair of York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP