On its current timetable, HS2 may still be more than a decade away from operating in Yorkshire but its promised arrival has already had a positive impact on the local economy – showing exactly what is at stake if the high-speed rail route to the region is scrapped as part of a money-saving review by the Government.
Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council, says the arrivals of Burberry and Channel 4’s new headquarters in the city and the “promise of better transport links” offered by the current plan to build a new HS2 station in the heart of Leeds were directly connected. The promise of HS2 will of course not have been the only factor in such relocation decisions, but it will have undoubtedly played a part in the thinking of countless businesses considering long-term investment in Leeds, with the extra jobs and economic benefit that brings. Cancelling the route would send an awful message to other firms and corporations considering a move to Yorkshire; as Coun Blake points out, the region already lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to planned infrastructure investment. In addition, HS2 would help existing commuters by adding capacity – the existing railway infrastructure that dates back to Victorian times is so overburdened and congested that 40 per cent of rail passengers coming into Leeds each day have to stand. With the results of the HS2 review due to be made public this week, the new line could help to unlock the potential of not just Leeds, but Yorkshire as a whole. Cancellation of the eastern leg of the route would be a mistake that would not be forgotten for generations.