Region draws up plans to cash in on HS2 boost

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PLANS showing how jobs and economic growth will be created around Yorkshire’s high speed rail stations should be in place by the end of the year, according to a new report.

A dedicated Minister for HS2 regeneration, adding links to the project to school curriculum and giving businesses advice on how to win contracts, are also among the recommendations.

The report by the Government’s HS2 Growth Taskforce published this morning says the new rail line and stations should be at the heart of local transport plans.

The Government and Network Rail are urged to make clear by the end of this year how HS2 will affect train services to towns and cities not on the line.

It also calls for clear regeneration plans for the areas surrounding HS2 stations and “local delivery bodies” to put them into action.

Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, the body which brings councils and business together to grow the economy, is a taskforce member.

He said: “HS2 is not just about changing the way we travel, it is essential to the medium and long-term growth of our city regions and the opportunities this offers future generations, both in terms of direct job creation and the effects of better connectivity with London, Europe and the UK’s key regional centres.

“Locally we are committed to working with government and partners to ensure that the whole of Leeds City Region seizes the significant opportunities and benefits for good growth this national investment presents for generations to come.“

The report says that the location of stations on phase two of HS2 should be “informed by a thorough examination of economic growth potential in each proposed station location”.

Sheffield will take heart from that finding as it feels it can make a strong case that moving the station earmarked for Meadowhall into the city centre will have a much bigger impact on the economy.

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore, a member of the taskforce, said: “If done properly, high speed rail stations can be a catalyst for growth.

“It is important that we make the right decisions now so that the whole of the UK can benefit from what is undoubtedly a unique opportunity for the country’s growth.

“The real debate now is ‘how do we take best advantage of HS2?’”

The report calls for a major push in schools and colleges to make sure that young people have the skills needed to build a modern railway.

The Government has already proposed the creation of a new HS2 college and at least one bid is likely from Yorkshire.

Phase one of HS2 will run from London to Birmingham before a second phase sees the line follow a Y-shape with branches heading to Manchester and Yorkshire.

Sir David Higgins, the chairman of HS2, published a report earlier this week suggesting the completion of the second phase could be brought forward by three years and money could be saved by scrapping the planned link to the existing HS1 line to the Channel Tunnel.

Labour has expressed concerns about the £50bn cost of the project but following Sir David’s report this week senior figures made clear it would support the current legislation going through Parliament.