It will be a vital moment for the North. Securing high-speed rail is a huge vote of confidence for our region, acting as a spur for regeneration and growth at a moment when we are emerging from the biggest economic disruption in a generation.
The Government’s promise to deliver both schemes has already triggered a wave of investment pouring into the Northern towns and cities along a high-speed rail route. Our office in Leeds city centre looks out over the refurbishment work at the station which will eventually serve HS2, a sustainable development that includes cycle lanes and a new pedestrianised area.
This is just the beginning. Provided it follows through on the commitments made to Northern businesses, the IRP should deliver the much-needed clarity that would unlock billions more in public and private investment in cities such as Sheffield, York, Bradford and Hull. According to our survey of 5,000 Northern businesses in 2019, 99 per cent believed Northern Powerhouse
Rail would raise productivity in the North and 85 per cent thought it would increase inward investment.
Certainty gives businesses the confidence to build a growth strategy, knowing what to expect from a city in the months and years to come. Unlocking economic potential is hugely dependent on transport infrastructure. When people can commute to a town or city more quickly or easily, it expands the local labour market.
Back in March, business and civic leaders from across the region made the case for why Bradford needs to be linked into Northern Powerhouse Rail A city centre station would bring its population – one of the youngest, most diverse in the country – just a short shuttle journey away from both Leeds and Manchester.
We can’t afford to lose momentum now; each year without a firm decision costs the North and Midlands £4.9bn.
HS2 is at the heart of the growth strategies of West Yorkshire and the Sheffield City Region, providing more than £70bn to those economies, with the potential for almost 10,000 new homes and more than £5bn of private sector investment.
Over 150,000 additional jobs could be created in and around Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands through delivery of HS2’s Eastern Leg. High-speed rail is the linchpin to a greener, more sustainable transport network here in the North.
The vast majority of Northern commuters still drive to work, preferring even congested motorways to the glacially slow, unreliable rail services available. Freight is transported hundreds of miles by articulated lorries, rather than placed at the mercy of countless delays on over-capacity rail lines.
Now is time to be bold in our ambitions, recognising this as an opportunity to build a lasting Northern Powerhouse just as prosperous as the South.
The North needs the high-speed rail revolution it was promised – a true economic recovery won’t happen without it.