Grant Woodward: What’s the point of HS2 when I can’t get to work in Leeds?

HERE ARE a few figures for you. Three-and-a-half miles. 40 minutes. Two spaces.

That’s how far I live away from work, the time it takes me to drive to the office, and the number of halfway affordable parking spaces remaining when I finally arrive.

It’s why I had to suppress a snigger at the big news this week that Leeds is to undergo a “colossal revamp” to accommodate a new station for the HS2 high-speed rail scheme.

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Let’s be clear. It is welcome that planners have finally seen sense and now want to integrate Leeds’s proposed HS2 station with the city’s existing railway station.

The original idea of having passengers trudge from a site a mile or so down the road to catch connecting trains was a complete non-starter.

Former council leader Keith Wakefield, now transport chief at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, says he hopes the new station will become a “St Pancras in the North”.

Me too. The fact that the expanded Leeds station will be the biggest in the region, if and when it opens, is another sizeable feather in the city’s cap.

The only snag is that this won’t be until 2033. And in two decades’ time you wonder if shaving 45 minutes off a train journey to London will still cut the mustard for a projected outlay of up to £80bn, if some of the latest budget forecasts are remotely accurate.

In the meantime, those of us who live and work in Leeds are left with the grim slog of getting in and out of the city centre every day.

This has now become a mission of epic proportions. I pride myself on having got every short cut and rat run between my house and town down pat. But even then I struggle to beat a 40-minute journey time from door to door.

With HS2 you’d be on the outskirts of Birmingham by then – hammering home just how appalling the city’s own transport network really is.

Rush hour is now still at its peak long after 9am. Every major route in and out of the city is more clogged up than your average Glaswegian’s arteries.

And when you do get into the city centre you can either expect to pay through the nose to park or be forced to dump your car somewhere you’re not entirely sure it will be safe – and still pay a few pounds for the privilege.

Every morning – when there’s still a space left, that is – I park on a street in the red light area where I have to dodge the used condoms scattered around my car. But unless I want to pay £7 a day it’s my cheapest option.

All in all, getting in and out of Leeds city centre is a thoroughly miserable experience – and HS2 isn’t going to change that.

But why is it that Leeds is a special case?

For all the cash set to be thrown at us on HS2, why do we remain the biggest city in Europe without a metro rail or tram network?

Nottingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Sheffield. All of them are far smaller than Leeds yet each has its own transit system that gets people where they need to go both quickly and cheaply.

Supertram came a decade too late and was deemed to be too expensive at £500m.

Yet the Crossrail system in London was given the go ahead at £20bn. And, straight after axing Supertram, then Chancellor Alistair Darling gave the green light to a similar scheme in Edinburgh, which just so happened to be his constituency.

I’m not fussy. Give me a monorail, an underground tube network, a decent tram system. Anything that makes my daily journey slightly less hellish.

Trolleybus convinces no one that it will make a significant dent in congestion. The bus is no good because for the most part it travels in the same lanes as car traffic.

The truth is the eye-popping sums due to be spent on HS2 can’t disguise the fact that Leeds has been shortchanged for decades.

So forgive me if I don’t get too excited about the prospect of a 90-minute journey time to London.

Not when it takes me that long to just get in and out of the city where I live.