City Region is HS2-ready says Cllr Hinchcliffe
11 June 2018
Problems arising from recent train timetable changes have highlighted the importance of Leeds City Region's and the North's rail network and the challenges we face on transport.
While the immediate focus is, quite rightly, on ending the chaos that has affected Northern Rail customers and establishing a clear and fair compensation plan for passengers across the North, these events have highlighted the need for long-term action too. We need wider network capacity and infrastructure issues to be addressed too.
When delegates come to Leeds to attend the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Conference on Tuesday, we will be turning our attention to these longer-term considerations and the vital role high-speed rail has to play in resolving these problems.
We will also be showing them that we are High-Speed-ready and how HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are already having a positive impact on investment and development in our City Region.
Leeds City Region already has a £64.6 billion economy, larger than nine EU countries and the largest in England outside London and the South East. More than just a transport project, high-speed rail will be a catalyst for hugely increased economic growth opportunities, making our Region an even more attractive place as somewhere to invest, expand, live and visit. By 2050, the number of additional jobs forecast to be created as a result of HS2 is 50,000.
Find out about the Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy
And Northern Powerhouse Rail, including stations in Bradford, Leeds and York, is forecast to create jobs and growth across the whole of the north. Preparations to capitalise on these huge opportunities offered by HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are well underway in our City Region. They include plans to remodel stations in Bradford and Leeds, and South Bank Leeds, the largest regeneration project in Europe.
Research by analysts at GENECON, the specialist economic development consultancy, shows that a Northern Powerhouse Rail station in my own city, at a revamped Bradford Interchange, serving traditional rail and bus services as well as the new east-west high-speed link, could generate up to 15,000 new jobs across the City Region.
Putting Bradford at the heart of a high-speed powered Northern Powerhouse will help unleash the potential of a city which, with almost a quarter of its population aged under 16 is the UK's youngest.
Meanwhile in Leeds, the South Bank development includes plans for the country's largest sustainable housing development with 8,000 new homes and over 35,000 local jobs with developer CEG planning to build a 40-storey residential skyscraper and create space for office, retail, leisure, hotel, health, community, education and cultural use.
Not only are West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region ready for high-speed rail. We also have the research, innovation and educational environment to welcome it.
The University of Leeds is developing the UK's first dedicated centre for high speed rail technologies and system integration and just last week, West Yorkshire Combined Authority backed the development of a £23 million scheme to develop world-leading facility capable of testing full-scale rolling stock and railway track structures. We also have Huddersfield University's Institute of Railway Research, a world-leading centre in the field of railway engineering and risk.
Also, Leeds City Region's economic and sector strengths place it at the heart of high-speed rail development both in terms of its leading role in the UK's reinvention as a knowledge-led economy and its huge potential for supply chain involvement.
Our economy is underpinned by world-leading research, one of Europe's largest teaching hospitals, the UK's best university, over £600m of investment in academic infrastructure currently on-site or in the pipeline and the largest population of millennials in the Northern Powerhouse.
When it comes to the supply chain, Leeds City Region already has a strong manufacturing sector worth £7.7bn to our economy and employing 144,200 people, 48,500 of whom work in advanced manufacturing. Over 90% of our businesses are small and medium employers of the size that the Federation of Small Business is forecasting that 60% of HS2's 7,000 supply chain contract opportunities will go to.
While HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are already having an impact on development and investment in our future prosperity, we have always been clear that by the time they arrive, our existing transport networks must also be HS2-ready.
That is why we continue to push for much-needed upgrades to a number of rail routes, including the trans-Pennine lines via Huddersfield and the Calder Valley and the Harrogate line along with better road links across the country's spine. The first big test of the government's commitment to working with us to maximise the benefits of high-speed will be the trans-Pennine rail upgrade.
It is also why we have used the Leeds City Region Growth Deal with government to establish a £1 billion Transport Fund to develop the networks and facilities that support inclusive growth but also prepare the way for high-speed rail's arrival.
As I said at the outset, right now we are focusing on solving the immediate problems causing misery for passengers using our railways on a daily basis, but I can assure the industry leaders heading to Leeds on Tuesday that we also have our eyes firmly on the future and the arrival of high-speed rail.