HS2 'already benefiting Yorkshire" claims chairman

Sir David Higgins
Sir David Higgins
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THE MAN leading the project to bring high speed rail to Yorkshire has claimed it is already having a major economic impact years before construction begins.

Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2, pointed to the decision from fashion giant Burberry to open a new manufacturing site in the centre of Leeds as one of the signs that the prospect of high speed rail is bringing benefits to the North even though services will not begin until around 2033.

He said cities along the proposed route were already drawing up economic blueprints around the line but pointedly did not refer to the ongoing debate over the planned HS2 location in South Yorkshire where the lack of certainty is delaying the development of similar plans.

"Burberry is a global brand. It could go anywhere, but it is rooted in the North and by choosing Leeds as its new headquarters it is making a global statement about its confidence in the future of the area.

"HS2 was part of that decision, even though it is, currently, not due to open in the city until 2033. That's strategic thinking," he said.

In an apparent defence of the costs of HS2, Sir David said the UK was paying the price for the failure to properly invest in infrastructure in the past seen in the frequent disruption to transport caused by the weather.

He said: "False savings by one generation robs the next generation of the full value of the nation's investment. We have paid a price for that short-termism and we shouldn't ask the next generation to pay that price again."

Speaking at the UK Northern Powerhouse conference, Sir David said that while some costs associated with HS2 could not be avoided it was also crucial that the British construction industry was prepared for the project to ensure money is not wasted.

Sir David said the British construction industry's failure to invest in skills and technology had led to higher costs for building major projects and change is needed.

"HS2 can be not only the catalyst to help rebalance the country, but the catalyst we need to transform how we deliver infrastructure.

"As a project that will help restructure our supply chain, build the technical and project skills we need and bring financing and approval processes up to date. It is an investment in a lower cost base and more efficient and productive industry in the future."