HIGH-SPEED rail will be ‘absolutely, crucially important’ to economic growth in Cheshire – but only if all its residents and businesses can access it.

That was the message from Philip Cox, chief executive at the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, at a Cheshire West and Chester Council meeting on Wednesday.

His organisation – which covers Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Warrington borough’s – is pushing to grow the area’s economy from £30.9 billion a year to more than £50 billion a year by 2040.

Mr Cox told councillors that his organisation will make its voice heard in the recently-announced review into HS2 – and he also made the case for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the proposed high-speed line from east to west.

“We can’t nearly double the size of the economy but leave our infrastructure in its present state,” he told CWAC’s places overview and scrutiny committee.

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Asked if the money set for HS2 would be better spent on NPR, Mr Cox said: “This will sound like I am ducking, but actually they are both important.

“NPR is very, very important because it strengthens the link between Liverpool and Manchester, and there is also a spur down to Crewe.

“But what is crucially important, with that and with HS2, is the connectivity to the rest of the area.

“Bringing HS2 into Crewe will be fantastic for Crewe, and perhaps the surrounding area, but the whole point about HS2 coming into Crewe is that network of rail lines that span out from Crewe.”

Mr Cox added that is important Crewe gets a state-of-the-art ‘HS2 hub’ that can be fit-for-purpose for high-speed rail.

He said: “The current proposal from HS2 Ltd is – apart from extending a platform and moving a bridge – to leave Crewe station as it is for the next 60 years.

“We are saying to the Government ‘this is absolutely crazy, it’s not fit for purpose, you can’t get around, we need a modern interchange that is then fit-for-purpose’.

“If we don’t get the Crewe interchange right and the surrounding services, then HS2 will be valuable to Crewe, but it won’t be to the rest of the area – that’s what is really important about that project.”

READ > HS2 facing up to 7 year delay and spiralling costs

The Government announced last month that an independent review will consider the value for money of HS2 and how costs could be cut – including axing part of the route.

On Tuesday it was revealed that HS2 Ltd expect the costs of the scheme to rise from £56 billion to as much as £78 billion – while the project could also overrun, from a 2033 launch north of Crewe, to 2040.