I am afraid that I am going to have speed on and perhaps not take any more interventions.
As I have said before, the intention is to smash the north-south divide. This line is about progress, opportunity and skilled jobs, and radically improving connectivity between not just London and the midlands, but the midlands and the great cities of the north—it is about connecting eight of our 10 largest cities. This is more growth in the UK economy, more skilled jobs and more opportunities. In particular, these new opportunities will be brought to the midlands and the north earlier than before.
We debated the principle of the Bill thoroughly on Second Reading in January 2018, when we voted overwhelmingly for the Bill and commended it to a special Select Committee. As we know, phase 2a will take HS2 to the north. It is the enabler for phase 2b and the northern powerhouse rail. I must take a moment to thank my hon. Friend James Duddridge, who ran the Committee that oversaw that work on this phase of the Bill. The Committee received 302 petitions, which it had to work through. I apologise for not mentioning him during our earlier debate and I hope he will recognise our recognition of and respect for all the work undertaken by him in chairing that Committee.
As we know the phase 2a Bill will help to take this project even further north and it is the enabler for phase 2b and the northern powerhouse rail. Without this section of the line, we cannot make progress towards a three-hour journey time to Scotland. Colleagues from across the House will know how much support there is for these two projects among business and local authorities.
I have said it before and I will say it again: there is no either/or between the second phase of High Speed 2 and northern powerhouse rail. High Speed 2 is vital to the provision of the network improvements that northern powerhouse rail will build on. I encourage all Members of this House to visit the places benefiting from High Speed 2 to hear the enthusiasm for the project—these include Birmingham, which I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield will be visiting soon— and to hear about the ambitious growth strategies at first hand. Leeds intends to use High Speed 2 to almost double the size of its city centre. The east midlands wants to use Toton to attract new homes and jobs; the Toton innovation campus has the potential for up to 10,000 new jobs to be created. Manchester’s continued prosperity can be ensured by High Speed 2 trains calling at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly. None of that is possible without the support for this legislation today.
This short section of railway will take trains beyond Birmingham, bringing the High Speed 2 network one step closer and unlocking phase 2b and northern powerhouse rail. We must not forget the two bespoke colleges, one in Doncaster and one in Birmingham, which are enabling more skilled young and older people to continue to build for our country. I do believe that we are responsible for bringing economic growth to our regions, and that is exactly what HS2 does, as well as improving capacity and connectivity between our great cities. I do believe we should be steadfast in unlocking the investment this project will bring. I, for one, want to look forward and be ambitious on behalf of our country. I want us to succeed as a nation, on the back of a high-speed, interconnected railway line. I urge you, Madam Deputy Speaker, my colleagues and the rest of the House to help support the next stage of HS2 railway by positively supporting the Third Reading of this Bill. I commend it to the House.