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Leeds City Council brings HS2 agenda to government

The case to begin building the HS2 link from the North has been put to a government minister visiting Leeds today as the city’s leaders outlined their aspirations for high-speed rail.

Unlocking the economic and jobs-creating potential of beginning the rail link’s construction in the region is one of five key asks outlined to the HS2 Growth task force as they arrived in the city to promote its potential benefits.

The city’s leaders have drawn up a five-point plan to ensure that Leeds and the wider region achieves the maximum benefit from the proposed new high-speed connection from London to the North. The plan has already received strong support from across the region.

Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and Chair of the HS2 Growth Taskforce and his team, who made the visit to Leeds, were told how the five key areas were vital to unlocking the scheme’s full potential for the region. They are:

• Designing, building and engineering from the North to accelerate the economic ripple effect regionally as well as bringing forward opportunities for construction jobs;

• Investing early in local rail networks and other transport to better connect Leeds City Region cities and towns;

• Calling for a response to concerns already expressed about the route to minimise impact on communities and maximise economic benefits to them;

• Lobbying for a review of compensation for communities to better engage with and improve arrangements for them;

• Making the economic case while ensuring costs are kept down.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Having a high-speed rail link connecting Leeds more closely to the rest of country could bring unprecedented economic benefits to the city and wider region. However, this potential can only be unlocked fully by intelligent planning and delivery along with proper engagement with communities.”

“It is absolutely imperative to get the route right locally and it must also be ensured that any existing communities affected by that route are properly compensated.”

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really focus growth and opportunity in Yorkshire and the North and we are totally committed to making sure we get the best possible benefits for our region.”

Roger Marsh, Chair of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “We are determined to seize the opportunity of HS2 with both hands, and to squeeze out every possible benefit for Leeds and the wider City Region.”

“Whilst HS2 is a vital game-changer for Britain as a whole, it will also provide a wealth of lasting opportunities for us regionally. Our businesses will be better able to compete on the global stage and our economy will get a boost from the creation of jobs. That said, enhanced connectivity to and from Yorkshire also requires significant improvements across the City Region to maximise the economic return, locally and nationally.”

Lord Deighton and his team in turn summarised how they felt HS2 is set to play a key role in job creation, regeneration and development across the county. They referenced how the journey time to and from London will be cut from 2hrs 12m to 1h 23m and how the stations in Leeds, Sheffield, East Midlands and Birmingham will each be less than 20 minutes apart.

They also referenced the plans for electrification of the Trans-Pennine route and the proposals for a new high speed station at Leeds New Lane next to the city’s existing station. This in turn would make the land around the stations very attractive to developers. As an example of this they revealed that redevelopment of King’s Cross Station has seen public investment of £500m attract £2.2bn of private sector investment.

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