Calls to scrap HS2 in favour of a better connected rail network across the North of England have been described as “100 per cent a false debate” by one of the North’s leading industrial leaders.
In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, Siemens chief executive Juergen Maier said that high speed rail links running north to south and east to west were both absolutely essential if Britain was going to be a key figure in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Speaking to the YP ahead of the Great Northern Conference next week, Mr Maier said that a poor transport infrastructure was damaging to the credibility of UK firms seeking foreign investment and no other nation at the forefront of the movement had such poor transportation links.
His comments came after a Dispatches programme featured a number of critical voices concerning the multi-billion pound rapid speed rail project between London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.
The broadcast included many commentators saying the £56bn price tag for the project would be better spent on improving localised routes in the North of England but Mr Maier said such calls were misleading.
“It is 100 per cent a false debate,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“You need both. If we take two of our great cities of the North, Leeds and Manchester, those are developing ecosystems that are part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“In Leeds there is a lot going on in advanced manufacturing, there is a lot going on in health innovation, there is a lot going on in media and creative industries.
“If you take health innovation it is the case that some of the R&D and technology happens down in London at something like the Crick Institute.”
“So therefore you need that connectivity to make those ecosystems develop as close as you can to one another. In the same way you need to be able to travel that way in the North.
“There is no other country that is leading in the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is not investing in its high speed infrastructure or broadband or communications.”
Siemens has invested heavily in the North. Mr Maier is one of a long list of speakers who will appear at the day long Great Northern Conference will take place on Tuesday February 26 at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
He will be joined by former chancellor George Osborne, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Manchester University VC Dame Nancy Rothwell.
The event is sponsored by EY, CYBG, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, LNER, Doncaster Sheffield Airport and The Yorkshire Post parent company JPI Media.
See www.greatnorthernpowerhouse.co.uk for more information about the event.