Lord Deighton, the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, promises the taskforce will maintain a “relentless focus” on securing maximum economic gains from the £33bn project.
The Government expects the new line between Leeds, Manchester and London via Birmingham to deliver economic benefits to the tune of more than £50bn to the UK economy and create 100,000 jobs overall.
Critics, on the other hand, claim demand for the project is overestimated and evidence that it will tackle the north-south divide is limited. The proposed route cuts through Tory heartlands south of Birmingham and there is opposition from residents in Yorkshire, where the line intersects communities, who fear the impact to the value of their homes.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “HS2 provides a once in a generation opportunity to drive growth, generate jobs, and secure our country’s future prosperity. We need to squeeze every possible benefit from this vital project, leaving no stone unturned. That is why we are setting up a Growth Taskforce and that is why I have asked Lord Deighton, the man who delivered the Olympics, to lead it.
“I recognise HS2 is a huge project and I am determined to get maximum payback from the investment. This is about far more than just a new railway and, through the work of the Taskforce, we will be able to identify many of the wider economic benefits it can deliver.”
Lord Deighton said: “I know from experience that big projects can bring big rewards – boosting business, inspiring innovation and creating jobs. High Speed 2 is of vital importance to this country’s growth and will help us compete in the global race.
“I am very pleased to take on the role of Chair of the taskforce, which will have a relentless focus on unlocking the huge economic potential of this historic project.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport emphasised the new images were still just a concept but added the elimination of carriage gaps, nose cone and pantograph design would help cut noise and reduce energy consumption.