IF recent reports are to be believed, Liverpool is closer than ever to being connected to the planned HS2 high speed rail network. It is believed that Transport for North, the body planning the HS3 Northern Powerhouse rail network, is now in favour of a high speed connection for Liverpool, while an east-west high speed line is also being considered within plans for the HS2 main line, which will connect Manchester to London via Wigan. If the new east-west route is connected to the Wigan HS2 line, journey times from Liverpool to London would be cut to an incredible one hour and 15 minutes, while our near neighbours would be just 21 minutes away. Should these plans come to fruition, it’s difficult to exaggerate how crucial this could be for the city region. Whether we care to admit it or not, London is the commercial and financial epicentre of the UK, so being closer to it can only be good for our regional economy. Shorter journey times mean greater business and social connectivity, opening the door for us to welcome more investment, tap into new markets more easily and attract more of the best people to work, study and live here. Putting a hard figure on those benefits remains little more than guesswork but estimates range as far as £15 billion. Whatever the actual sum, it’s clearly not insignificant. For me there’s another, arguably equal, benefit for the Liverpool city region if it gains high speed rail connectivity; and that’s status. As it stands, Leeds and Manchester would be the only two cities receiving a direct high speed link to London. Economic benefits aside, this gives them an elevated status and perception of superiority, as if they’re the only two northern cities truly worthy or in need of such large-scale investment. In the context of the so-called Northern Powerhouse movement, it puts Liverpool at an immediate disadvantage and risks portraying us in a secondary light. For a city that is still working to overcome some historic negative perceptions, especially in the south of England,it would be a further major obstacle to those efforts. All of that would change, however, if the city was seen to have ‘caught up’ with Manchester and Leeds and now deemed strategically important enough to warrant a high speed rail link of its own. We would have a more level playing field once again and, given our relative strengths in maritime, tourism, culture and sport – on top of our commercial assets – I would certainly back Liverpool to make the most of the opportunities of high speed rail and bring many more people to witness what the city region has to offer. Liverpool needs and deserves to be part of the high speed rail picture, so let’s hope sense prevails and we get our rightful seat at this most lucrative table. All Standing Together To Open New Trade Markets It was really encouraging to see Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson heading to China earlier this month alongside Wirral council leader Phil Davies. The trade mission saw the pair take in six Chinese cities in a bid to boost international business relations and was the first time the pair have made an international visit together, symbolising real progress in efforts to present a unified voice for the Liverpool city region. They were joined by a number of private sector delegates from Liverpool and Wirral on the two-week trip, organised by the city region’s inward investment body, Invest Liverpool. The aim is to strengthen international relations and explore business and investment opportunities and the visit reflects a renewed determination for the wider city region to do business with China. Chinese businesses are known to be actively seeking UK partners across a range of sectors, including technology, property, digital and healthcare, so it’s great to see clear opportunities for Merseyside businesses to explore new markets, secure investment and find new clients in China. Liverpool has spent the last decade developing strong cultural and business relationships with various China regions and organisations; a continued joint effort from our leading politicians should help us to take full advantage of any further opportunities that come our way.