At a time when more details are emerging daily about the disruption that the construction of the high-speed rail route will cause to daily life in many UK communities, including those in Yorkshire, it is reassuring to learn that the head of HS2 Ltd is aware of the need to keep the impact to a minimum.
As documents reveal that the creation of the £56bn line will involve the closures and diversion of some of the region’s busiest roads, in addition to the demolition of homes and businesses already outlined, Sir Terry Morgan recognises that his organisation needs to work hard to make sure construction “isn’t just disruptive” and people are treated fairly if they’re inconvenienced.
While his statement in The Yorkshire Post is helpful, these words must be followed with meaningful action to mitigate the impact of HS2 on adversely affected communities in this region.
Given the scale of the infrastructure project, its challenges were always going to be formidable in spite of cross-party support for HS2 at the start of its journey.
But with growing scepticism about the scheme, including concerns from some Labour MPs that the plan fails to address the economic needs of the North, the company responsible for HS2 must do a better job of making the case for the wide benefits of the line – including a “jobs and skills boom” and greater capacity on the rest of the rail network – that Sir Terry sets out today.
As plans are drawn up for how regions and cities can take advantage of HS2, the organisation has to communicate better with the wider public about both the opportunities and the inevitable disruption or risk further undermining fragile public confidence in the scheme. If Sir Terry’s team fail to do so, they will play into the hands of those opponents who believe the more pressing priority should be improvements to existing commuter services in Yorkshire.