YORKSHIRE will see an economic impact worth more than £200m a year from HS2 with even bigger benefits if services are connected to Scotland, according to a new report.
Existing plans for phase two of the high speed rail project, which will see an eastern leg branch from Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds, are calculated to generate £227m a year.
The report from the HS2 East group, which represents cities and towns along the route, suggests lniking the eastern arm to an upgraded stretch of the East Coast Main Line to Scotland could add a further £33m.
The arrival of a new Prime Minister and ministerial changes in the Treasury and Department of Transport have raised concerns about the future of HS2.
While new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has insisted the Government is still committeed to the project there are concerns savings may be made which downgrade or delay the scheme.
Coun Keith Wakefield, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said: “More than ever, since Brexit, we need to make sure that we maxmimise the benefits of connectivity and the line up to York and Newcastle and Edinburgh that could add £717m to our GDP with the prospect of thousands of jobs.
“We also need to maintain the focus on the benefits of the eastern leg which has the support of chambers of commerce and local enterprise partnerships.
“We must have this investment and if anything sooner than already programmed.”
Leeds station is set to undergo a major redevelopment ahead of the arrival of HS2, becoming a hub for services across the North.
Leeds Council leader Judith Blake said: “This HS2 East report provides yet more compelling evidence that high-speed rail will provide a major boost to the national economy and transform opportunities for communities on or near the route.
“We are working with partners and businesses across the region and will continue to make the case for commitment for this much-needed investment in full and to the earliest possible timescale for Leeds.”
The coming months represent a critical time for HS2 as the Government prepares to confirm the final route and station locations for phase two.
Earlier this month, HS2 radically revised its plans for the eastern leg through Yorkshire.
The original proposal was for the line to snake between Sheffield and Rotherham and stop at a new station at Meadowhall.
Now it is proposed the line will take a route further east through South Yorkshire with a spur taking some services into the existing Sheffield Midland station. A further station could also be built near the M18.
The changes have delighted campaigners who wanted HS2 to serve Sheffield city centre but dismayed communities which now find themselves in the path of the development.
Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, the government company delivering the project, said: “HS2 will transform journey times - and therefore connectivity - not just to London, but also between our towns, cities and regions.”
“To make the most of that it is vital that the Eastern leg as a whole works together to maximise the return at both a local and a national level, and to do so now as the government prepares to finalise the route in the autumn.”