AMBITIOUS proposals to maximise the benefits of high-speed rail to Yorkshire, including more services with faster journey times on existing lines, will be set out this week.
Transport experts believe that when the new high-speed line, known as HS2, is built the timetable on the current East Coast Main Line can be tweaked to provide improvements such as an hourly fast service between Bradford and London and maintain a half-hourly service from Wakefield to the capital with a shorter journey time.
It has been calculated that using the existing network in this way could produce up to £800m of economic benefits to the region over and above those already expected from high-speed rail.
Initial proposals from HS2 Ltd, the Government-backed company developing the line, suggested some parts of Yorkshire would see a reduced service on the existing network, fuelling criticism that high-speed rail will only benefit Leeds and Sheffield where it will stop at new stations.
However, two of Yorkshire’s transport authorities, Metro and SYPTE, will argue that a different approach can produce benefits for more parts of the region and urge HS2 Ltd to revisit the plans.
They will also call on the company to be more ambitious in its ideas for the way the new line is used.
Metro chairman James Lewis said: “We think that on the stretch of HS2 line between Leeds and Birmingham there is potential to put on regional services as well as those going to and from London.
“We are going to argue there could be services, similar to the Javelins on HS1, between Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds that better utilise the HS2 infrastructure and deliver some fairly significant reductions in journey times.
“In this way, HS2 becomes more than just about travelling between Leeds and London, it makes a virtue of Yorkshire being in the centre of the country and the economic strength of cities outside London.
“We also think that HS2 could help improve services to other parts of Yorkshire, such as a wider range of cross-county links and improved services to London from Wakefield and Bradford, using the existing East Coast Main Line.”
The first phase of HS2 will be built from London to Birmingham, with a second phase seeing the line split into a Y shape, with one arm heading to Manchester and the other serving Yorkshire.
The line is due to stop at a new station at Meadowhall, near Sheffield, before heading north and stopping short of York where it will connect with the East Coast Main Line with a branch taking trains into the centre of Leeds,
The Government has started a consultation on the route for phase two of HS2, and Metro will argue that an extra spur of track would allow high-speed services to continue north from Leeds to Newcastle.
Coun Lewis added: “We are absolutely clear we support the concept of HS2 but we are making clear we are not just going to be passive recipients of this project.
“We are going to put forward our own views about how the project can be designed to secure the best outcomes for the region.”
Metro and SYPTE have also taken a broader look at measures needed to integrate HS2 into the wider Yorkshire transport network.
They want to make it as easy as possible for passengers arriving at the new HS2 station in Leeds to access services at the existing station and use a single ticket on both networks.
Metro will look at whether additions are needed to the soon-to-be built NGT trolleybus system in Leeds to connect with HS2.
The study also suggests the possibility of services connecting Yorkshire with mainland Europe and recommends the creation of a development masterplan for the area around the proposed station in Leeds.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin last week urged cities along the proposed route of HS2 to make sure they had plans in place to maximise the benefits.
He also unveiled artist’s impressions of how the new Leeds city centre station, to be known as Leeds New Lane, will look when it is built on land near Bridgewater Place.
The proposed route for phase two was first unveiled in January and there was initial widespread support for the scheme.
However, recent months have seen key figures, including Wakefield Council leader Peter Box, question the economic case for the line and argue the money earmarked for HS2 could have a greater impact if spent in other ways.