David Cameron: Big benefits for North in high-speed rail revolution

Today this Government takes the next step in our long-term economic plan for the North: giving the go-ahead to plans that will bring the high speed rail revolution to Yorkshire, writes David Cameron.

Prime Minister David Cameron

HIGH SPEED 2 is already set to connect London and Birmingham with a 250mph railway. We are welcoming recommendations by HS2 boss Sir David Higgins for how we can maximise the benefits to the North as we extend high speed rail to Leeds and Manchester. And we are making a huge new commitment: to develop an East-to-West high speed link – HS3 – between Leeds and Manchester.

This will have an enormous impact on Yorkshire. Journey times from Leeds to Sheffield will fall from 41 minutes to just 17 minutes. To Birmingham they will be cut from just under two hours to under an hour. With HS3, passengers could travel from Leeds to Manchester in just 26 minutes.

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And the recommendations say Leeds Railway Station – already the busiest station in the North – should be overhauled, as part of the wider city regeneration. Along with electrification of the North Transpennine route, doubling of a section of the Harrogate line and new stations at Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge, this forms the biggest investment in the railways since Victorians. And like the age of steam, the age of high speed will be of historic significance for Yorkshire, helping us to create a Northern Powerhouse that rivals London, Berlin, New York and Shanghai.

Leeds railway station

But this isn’t about winning international competitions or getting one over other countries. Our long-term economic plan is about making life better for you, for readers of The Yorkshire Post. For too long in this country, people felt they were slogging their guts out and being taxed to the hilt, but not getting the public services or the standard of living they deserved.

There was a sense that Britain’s best days were behind us. Our mission is to turn that around. We want a Britain where hardworking families can have the reward of a meaningful job and a good quality of life, where they have access to good services. Ultimately, we want them to have peace of mind that the future will be one of stability and opportunity – that Yorkshire is a place moving forwards, not staying still. And bringing HS2 and HS3 to the North will help us secure that better future in two important ways.

First, it will help us rebalance Britain. Under Labour, for every 10 private sector jobs created in London and the South, just one was created in the North and the Midlands. Readers know what it felt like – the capital roaring ahead while Yorkshire was left behind. This Government is changing that. And today, employment isn’t growing fastest in London – it’s growing fastest in the North East and North West. The largest number of new businesses isn’t in the capital – it’s in the North West. It’s the same with high speed rail. Labour’s plans were about getting people to London, faster. What we’re announcing today is about connecting our great Northern cities, so they have the infrastructure they need to grow, flourish and create jobs – providing the skills and opportunities your children need to get on in life.

Second, these plans will help to reindustrialise Britain. We’re already seeing that take place – trains being built in County Durham, jet engines being made in Derbyshire, the West Midlands revitalising the car industry, and Somerset giving us the first nuclear power station in a generation.

Again, we’re beginning to fix something that went so wrong under Labour. On infrastructure, Britain was investing less than any other developed nation – less than France, Spain, even Greece. On industry, Britain’s manufacturing output halved – the fastest decline on record. Again, we are turning that around. The job is far from done, but our mission remains clear: to take British industry and infrastructure into the 21st century – again, giving you the confidence that our country’s best days lie ahead.

All this is about building a country everyone is proud to call home. We’re not there yet, not by a long way. But after the deepest recession since the war and the biggest budget deficit, we have gone from no growth to the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world. We need to ensure everyone feels the effects of that, so Yorkshire is a place you can get the job, services and quality of life you deserve. That is what high speed rail will help us achieve – and that is what our long-term plan for the North is all about.