YORKSHIRE’S business community has been told it must make its voice heard if it wants to guarantee the planned HS2 high speed rail line is built to the region.
An audience of business people in Leeds were told doubts will hang over the stretch of the line from Birmingham to Yorkshire until the go-ahead for construction is given.
MPs have already passed the law paving the way for phase one of the project from London to Birmingham and will shortly begin debating the Bill which will pave the way for the stretch from the Midlands to Crewe.
But there remain concerns among cities on the proposed eastern leg from Birmingham to Leeds, Sheffield and York, that it remains vulnerable to future governments deciding only to press ahead with the western side.
Andrew Pritchard, policy director for the East Midlands Councils group, told the event: “That eastern leg, from Birmingham through the East Midlands to Yorkshire and then onto the North-East and Scotland is really really crucial.
“It’s the part of HS2 that delivers the most economic benefits but it is also the last part to be built and there is a real challenge around that which we should not shy away from.”
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said the city was already seeing an impact from the prospect of HS2 arriving.
She told the event work was already underway to transform Leeds station and to build transport links with other parts of the region in readiness for HS2.
Coun Blake said there were “detractors” over HS2 and it was vital supporters “sharpen up” their arguments to make clear the benefits the project will have beyond the areas which will have stations on the line.
The event heard concerns that the case for the eastern leg of HS2 might be damaged by the lack of metro-mayors in Yorkshire to speak up for it.
Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands were among areas to elect metro mayors in May as part of so-called devolution deals to take more control over their own affairs.
Sara Gilmore, chairman of the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce’s transport group, said: “We all want HS2, if we want the HS2 eastern leg to happen we all need to be saying the same things, continually saying to Westminster, continually lobbying for it.
“Whether we have metro-mayors or not doesn’t really matter if we all want the same thing and we say it loudly enough.”
The Conservative general election manifesto included a commitment “to strategic national investments including High Speed 2”.
The Queen’s Speech following the election included plans for a Bill to progress the section of line known phase 2a from Birmingham to Crewe.
The eastern leg will stop at a parkway station in the East Midlands before heading north with a spur taking some services into Sheffield and the mainline continuing to Leeds and connecting to the existing network at York.