By Daniel Hunter

Extending HS2 to Liverpool is the city's 'big ask' ahead of the general election, according to a group of business leaders and academics.

The 20 Miles More campaign has been calling for the high-speed rail project to come to Liverpool since its conception.

But now, alongside the group, 50 business leaders and Vice Chancellors from the city region's four universities are calling on the three main party leaders to commit to ensuring Liverpool gets a direct HS2 link.

Currently neither the HS2 project nor the emerging Transport for the North vision for an East / West HS3 make any commitment to deliver a High Speed rail line into Liverpool.

The open letter is signed by business owners from freight, professional service, life science, tourism, retail and creative industries sectors along with Universities and major business organisations including the North West Business Leadership Team, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Professional Liverpool, Liverpool BID Company and Downtown Liverpool in Business.

20 Miles More Chairman Andrew Morris said: “These are the businesses and institutions that are forging our future economy. The range of signatures demonstrates the breadth of support for a direct High Speed link to the city and how vitally important this is to our future prosperity and success.

"Liverpool’s economy has always been based on connectivity and pioneering infrastructure. With the massive investment in the new Post-Panamax port facility we desperately need additional rail capacity and better connectivity in order to handle the projected massive growth in freight.”

Geoffrey Piper, chief executive from the North West Business Leadership Team, said: “We are strongly committed to the idea of a Northern Powerhouse, but we believe it’s logical for this vision to start here. A high speed rail link from Liverpool to Manchester would not only connect us to HS2 but would be the first leg of transformational HS3 East / West link as well. If we want the Northern Powerhouse to deliver quickly then we should start by connecting the cities with the strongest economic synergies and highest number of passenger journeys.”