Council leader says HS2 is ‘key to transforming economy’ as new details to be released in Leeds

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield has hailed HS2 as “the key to transforming the future economy of Leeds and the north” with a new report being released in the city tomorrow.

An update on the proposed new high-speed rail project is to be delivered by Chairman of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins at a special event at Leeds Civic Hall on Monday (27 Oct).

His report ‘Rebalancing Britain: from HS2 towards a national transport strategy’ includes the following key recommendations for Leeds and the wider region:

- Reaffirming the importance of phase two of the project, a ‘Y’ branch from Leeds and Manchester to Birmingham, as essential (phase one is London to Birmingham)

- Endorsing the ‘One North’ transport proposal including major improvements to east-west travel infrastructure and a possible additional high-speed rail line between Leeds and Manchester

- As a priority there needs to be a focus on improving rail journeys between Leeds and Manchester to significantly cut journey times

- Consideration is needed on remodelling the existing Leeds Rail Station, to provide a new single integrated station hosting HS2, possible new east-west services and local services

- HS2 needs to be part of a new fully integrated national transport strategy

- HS2 is the key to helping rebalance the national economy away from the focus on London and the south-east

Reflecting on the report, Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said:

“We are very pleased Sir David chose Leeds to unveil his report as it further reinforces the importance of our city and the north as a whole to the success of the HS2 project.

“Without question HS2 is the key to transforming the future economy of Leeds and the north. It offers huge benefits in terms of job creation and opportunities, driving growth and innovation and bringing people and places closer together making cities like Leeds and the wider city regions much more attractive for businesses to base themselves.

“However, just as important in Sir David’s report is the endorsement of the One North proposals and the need for a fully integrated national transport strategy. It is absolutely fundamental to the overall success of HS2 that all connecting transport links to and from it are the best we can make them to offer efficient travel across city regions and to help our businesses compete in a global marketplace which is only going to get more and more competitive.”

Chairman of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins said:

“Improving connectivity is vital if Britain is to compete in the knowledge economy in which this country has a competitive advantage, but in which ease of travel is an essential element.

"Knowledge-based companies whether they are in high-tech manufacturing, the creative industries, finance or the law, have to be close, or feel close to the talent, skills base, support network, knowledge pools, collaborators and clients necessary to create the ‘hot-house atmosphere’ in which they thrive. That is why reducing the journey times between and within our cities isn't just desirable for both passengers and freight. It is a strategic necessity."

Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority Councillor Peter Box said:

“Ensuring West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region get the best value-for-money out of high-speed rail links by developing a comprehensive, ‘HS2-ready’ local transport network is key to our future plans and part of our devolution proposals.

“We want to see a position where someone can travel quickly and seamlessly from any of the main transport hubs across West Yorkshire and London, using HS2, which, our research has shown, will deliver an additional £1bn per year to West Yorkshire’s and over 13,000 new jobs across the city region if fully integrated into a wider transport strategy.

“By ensuring its benefits have an impact across all our communities an HS3 line linking Leeds City Region, the largest outside London, Manchester and other cities, will transform the north and its economy and will help counter the current situation where less than 0.5% of commuters into Manchester come from Leeds and vice versa because the daily commute is too slow or inconvenient.”

Chair of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership Roger Marsh said:

“HS2 is a game changer for the Leeds City Region and will provide a wealth of lasting opportunities for our residents and businesses. I welcome the Sir David Higgins report, stressing the importance of this essential investment for the north and in particular the city region.

“This major infrastructure project is of national importance, however we recognise that connectivity within the region is of equal importance to connectivity across the country. We will work with all our public and private sector partners to secure complementary investment in our local infrastructure, further developing a fully integrated transport strategy, to ensure that lasting benefits are felt by all.

“Providing businesses and residents with the 21st century transport infrastructure to connect people to jobs and goods to markets seamlessly, will be transformational for the growth of the regional economy.”

President of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce Nigel Foster said:

“Sir David is right to focus on HS2 as part of the wider rail network, if this region is to capture the full benefit then access to it must be seamless and convenient whether you are in Bradford, Halifax, Harrogate or Leeds. Upgrades to the existing rail network will not only enable greater access to HS2 but will improve regional commuter travel which is at capacity during peak times and something Chamber members often cite as a major inconvenience.

“Likewise Chamber members are keen to see improved connectivity and journey times between Leeds and Manchester, as the two major economic centres in the north with a combined GDP of over £100bn. Better transport links will open up job opportunities to a much wider labour market in turn increasing prosperity and spreading the benefits of economic growth more widely.”

Another recommendation made by Sir David in the report is for a coalition of the northern city regions of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle called ‘Transport for the North’ to be created to present a strong single voice in discussions with the government on future transport strategies and projects.

Councillor Wakefield added:

“We will take Sir David’s recommendation on for discussion but it many ways this process has already begun with local authorities and regions in the north working closer together than ever before.

“The One North proposal showed the level of ambition the north has and the success of the Tour de France Grand Départ was a fantastic demonstration of northern local authorities working together to achieve a common goal. Our northern cities and their surrounding areas have tremendous potential to grow and develop. Through major projects like HS2 together with regional devolution of powers and decision-making we are determined to see that potential fulfilled.”

The current timetable is for HS2 to be completed by 2033 with a budget of £42.6billion.

To see the full report ‘Rebalancing Britain: from HS2 towards a national transport strategy’ go to www.hs2.org.uk

To see the ‘One North’ transport proposal go to http://www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News/Articles/One%20North.pdf


For media enquiries please contact:

Roger Boyde,

Leeds City Council press office,

Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk