As the voice of the passenger, I try wherever I can to use public transport to get a detailed understanding of the challenges we all face.
And from my experience, I agree with the people of West Yorkshire – our transport network is just not good enough.
Whether popping to the shops on a Saturday afternoon or beginning our commute on a Monday morning, we see our rail lines clogged with slow trains, tickets that don’t feel value for money, overcrowding, cancellations and long delays.
A journey by train from Wakefield to Sheffield should not take 45 minutes.
It shouldn’t be that 88 per cent of the 42,000 commuters travelling between Leeds and Sheffield every day, choose to go by car because it’s more convenient – or that the M1 and M62 see 100,000 cars a day because trains just aren’t convenient or cost effective.
We must have a modern, reliable, fast and green rail network fit for the 21st century to get us to zero carbon by 2038.
And one of the most impactful ways to do that is to commit to HS2 East.
HS2 is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever planned for the North and we mustn’t lose the momentum to deliver for our region.
Sadly the Integrated Rail Plan, needed to sign off this project has been delayed, while Ministers brief journalists that plans for HS2E are dead.
We can’t allow that to happen.
Leeds station is already at 100 per cent capacity and our zero carbon commitments mean we must get freight and people off our roads and onto trains.
As business leaders have continuously said to government: More uncertainty means less opportunity for business investment and development in places like West Yorkshire.
HS2, by freeing up an extra half a million seats every day on a high-speed network, will revolutionise travel in Britain.
The Eastern Leg – serving 13 million people and creating around six million jobs – would get that young person, living in one of our towns or villages, to exciting internships or apprenticeships in the city.
And this matters not just for jobs but for the future of the planet.
Getting people off congested motorway networks onto HS2 rail, would cut our carbon emissions by 40,000 tonnes a year.
HS2 will create space for over two million lorries’ worth of goods to be moved from Britain’s roads onto our railways per year, cutting carbon emissions by 76 per cent.
Moreover, HS2 stations themselves are zero-carbon.
An efficient transport system will also make us more attractive to inward investment.
Businesses want to know their staff can get to work fast and on time, unlocking thousands of new office, retail, leisure and housing developments.
This is no truer than in the South Bank Regeneration part of Leeds, where the delay and uncertainty around HS2 has the potential to stall investment.
HS2 East is vital to our region, along with Northern Powerhouse Rail – the new West to East line also promised by the Government as well as the electrification of the TransPennine Express.
And it’s all possible.
We are ambitious and determined and have a proven track record of delivery, able to work with government and partners, while delivering the skilled engineering workforce we’ll need to make the plans a reality.
With Michael Gove now in charge of delivering the Government’s Levelling Up agenda, I’m hopeful we’ll see a step change in Government’s approach and a greater understanding of how vital HS2 East is for our region.
Publish the Integrated Rail Plan, agree to NPR with a stop in Bradford and make TransPennine the best train line in the country.
After more than 10 years of talking about HS2, now’s the time to get on and deliver.
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