YORKSHIRE cities need to prepare now for the arrival of high speed rail if they are to maximise the benefits, according to a report published today.
The study of European countries’ experiences found cities which plan early, build regeneration projects around high speed rail (HSR) and integrate it properly with the local transport see the biggest economic impact.
John Worthington, from the Independent Transport Commission which carried out the research, said: “Our research on the impacts of high-speed rail in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, has shown that, far from being a white elephant, there are very many examples where investment in HSR has been the catalyst for significant urban and regional renewal.
“This has happened when HSR has been properly integrated with the local transport network, when co-operation has been strong between all interest groups, and when cities have planned ahead and understood that regeneration is a long-term process.
“We hope that this report will act as a call-to-arms for the UK’s cities and regions and will, through the lessons it contains, help them to grasp the opportunities that HSR investment offers.”
The report welcomes the Government’s recent announcement of the creation of Transport for the North, a new body bringing together representatives of major cities to create a proper regional transport network.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “This report is a welcome addition to the case for high speed rail in Britain. The hugely positive impact of projects across Europe shows that this Government’s transformational ambitions are achievable if everyone works together and plans ahead.
“We have made great progress in encouraging towns and cities across the country to get ready to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity HS2 presents. We will continue to draw on the experience of success stories across the world to get the best out of our high speed rail plans and maximise the benefits for the country.”
A new station for HS2 services has been proposed in Leeds and the city’s council is considering making it part of a wider transport interchange although a recent report by HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins suggested the plans may need to change to allow for more east-west rail services.
In South Yorkshire, HS2 is due to stop at a station to be known as Sheffield-Meadowhall although Sheffield City Council is campaigning for it to be moved into the city centre.
Nigel Foster, President of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said: “The report is right to focus on high speed rail investment as part of the wider rail network, as the benefits of improved connectivity and capacity may be lost without it. The polycentric nature of the Leeds City Region means that if we are to capture maximum benefit then transfer on to HS2 and HS3 must be seamless wherever your journey begins. As the report demonstrates, connecting cities and city regions more efficiently in Europe has facilitated increased economic growth beyond capital cities, this is something we should aspire to in the UK.”