Yorkshire demands fast track for rail project

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YORKSHIRE political and business leaders will today demand the Government steps up plans to deliver a high-speed rail route to the region, while overhauling local services to maximise its estimated £4bn benefits.

Representatives of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are meeting with Transport Secretary Philip Hammond in the city today, to deliver its response to far-reaching consultation over the plans.

The LEP delegation will declare its strong support for the £32bn high-speed rail network – High Speed Two (HS2) – which will slash journey times between Yorkshire and London by 2032, giving the region’s economy a multi-billion-pound boost.

But pressure will also be put on Mr Hammond to accelerate the delivery of the plans ahead of schedule, as well as overhauling local services around Yorkshire in the coming years to maximise connectivity to the high speed rail network.

Speaking ahead of the meeting at Sheffield’s Cutlers’ Hall, chairman of the LEP James Newman, said: “The LEP fully supports this proposal and I and my colleagues from the public and private sector look forward to the opportunity to discuss this with the Secretary of State.

“The Sheffield City Region has massive potential for growth, and this key infrastructure is vital if we are to capitalise on this potential for long-term and sustainable prosperity.

“The huge benefits to our region – and other city regions in the North and the Midlands – cannot be overstated, and we are urging government to listen to the compelling arguments put forward.”

The new consultation document prepared by the Sheffield City Region claims the high speed rail link would slash journey times between London and Sheffield by 40 per cent to just one hour and 15 minutes, while the route north of Birmingham would serve nearly seven million passengers and three million jobs.

It claims 91 per cent of South Yorkshire businesses are in favour of the scheme.

The document also calls on the government to provide more details about proposed connections to Heathrow Airport and the Channel Tunnel, which could make it possible to travel between Paris and Sheffield by train in five hours.

Clive Betts, the Labour MP for Sheffield South East, last night welcomed the findings of the LEP.

“If we are going to have major investment like this then we have got to work on how to link as many people as we can to that service,” he said.

“We ought to be looking at improving local services as a matter of urgency.

“This consultation document puts in black and white how important this is to Yorkshire.”

The Government is currently consulting on plans for a line from London to Birmingham, followed by branches further north in a “Y” shape – one to South Yorkshire and Leeds and the other to Manchester.

Mr Hammond told the Yorkshire Post last week that it presented a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to redraw Britain’s economic map”.