Tag Archives: Chris Nash

What is high-speed rail worth to Leeds?

The green light for HS2 to Leeds looks increasingly likely, but more than 70 groups across the UK oppose it. Photo: ©knowyourleeds

The only way to be sure of catching a train is to miss the one before it, writer Chesterton once said. And there’s one train all politicians are desperate to board, the second incarnation of high-speed rail (HS2).

These super-fast trains – capable of 200mph – on a Y-shaped route will link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to a new rail network at a headline grabbing cost of £32.7bn by 2032.

Although you may not need to wait 20 years for a glimpse of how our local infrastructure will look like. Developments are already underway.

While electrification of existing rail lines towards York, Manchester and Bradford are under discussion, two new railway stations have been rubber stamped: Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge, the former of which, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves campaigned for.

“I think high-speed rail could make a real difference to regeneration,” Rachel Reeves told knowyourleeds shortly before last week’s announcement.

“Obviously it will create jobs during the construction of it, but I think it will make cities like Leeds and Manchester and Newcastle, and potentially Glasgow and Edinburgh, closer to export markets and could give us a real kick start.”

Professor Chris Nash of Leeds University acted as a consultant on Network Rail’s New Lines study. He examined plans on how to deal with chronic congestion on Britain’s rail lines. The findings lead to the drawing up of HS2.

“Arguably getting it to Leeds is more important than getting it Birmingham,” said Professor Nash.

Dependent on final acceptance of the plans in 2014, the Leeds link to HS2 won’t be in operation until six years after Birmingham.

“Assuming it comes to Leeds and goes on the join the EastCoast line to York, it’ll funnel traffic from Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh onto the faster services. The time savings for Leeds will be much bigger than for Birmingham.

“The potential benefits for the Leeds link are very high and probably pursued as quickly as possible as part of the plan,” he said.

Opponents to HS2 have said it’ll create more jobs in London than Birmingham, have challenged the evidence used to support the case and questioned environmental impact and need for a ministerial vanity project at such a huge financial cost when money is scare.

Metro say Leeds has to be "high-speed ready". Photo: ©knowyourleeds

“Even now, because that decision has made about high-speed rail going to Birmingham, then onto Leeds, will influence businesses in terms of where they make investment decisions,” said WY Metro spokesman Martin Driver.

Although there are new stations being built, there is more in the pipeline. A decision on funding the trolleybus scheme – rejected before Christmas because the government wanted additional assurances on cost-ratio estimates – will be given in March.

Negotiations to introduce a London style Oyster card are proving complex, according to Martin, but it’s not out of the picture.

“Leeds has to be ready for the high-speed rail. It’s no good people coming up here and then having to chug across to Halifax on a 30 year-old train. What you’ve got to do is come here and be able to use fast, modern local transport,” said Martin.

“It’s a positive time but I guess we would always want more. We want to grow the economy and improve environmental and social inclusions; transport underpins it.”

Can the HS2 really help kick-start Leeds economy, and if so, why do we have to wait a full six years after Birmingham for it?

Knowyoursleeds decided to investigate. In this audioboo feature, we’ve spoken to Conservative MP for Pudsey and Horsforth, Stuart Andrew who defends the plan and thinks it’ll be money well spent. But we discover that Professor Nash’s isn’t as optimystic on the economic benefits and of HS2. In addition to hearing what local commuters at Leeds station think about the plans, WY Metro chairman and Coun James Lewis (Lab, Kippax and Methley), tell us what he’s pushing for in the council’s chambers.

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