WEST Yorkshire must start developing better transport links and improve skills now if the area is to reap the maximum rewards from the arrival of high speed rail, according to a new report.
A taskforce set up by the Government to set out ideas on how to make sure the new line helps create jobs and boost the economy has described High Speed Two (HS2) as a “once in a generation opportunity” that could help close the North-South divide.
Its first report also calls for lessons to be learned from previous similar projects, pointing to a station built on a high speed rail line in France that failed to deliver the expected benefits.
Lord Deighton, who was chief executive of the London Olympics organising committee and who chairs the taskforce, said: “HS2 is set to be the biggest construction project in Europe and it’s vital we harness the huge potential that it offers the UK. It’s not just a transport project and it’s not just for one central Government department to deliver in isolation.
“The Growth Taskforce is due to visit Leeds later this year and I look forward to hearing about their plans for HS2. It is vital that they are ready to take advantage of the business opportunities, jobs and skills that will come with HS2.
“Growth and regeneration won’t just be handed to us on a plate – we need to think big, we need to plan ahead and most importantly we need to work together if we are to really make the most of this once in a generation opportunity and help Britain to compete in the global race.”
The first phase of HS2 will see a new rail line built connecting London to Birmingham. A second phase will see two lines built from Birmingham to the North with one arm connecting to Manchester and the other to Leeds where a new station is planned for land close to ASDA House.
On the current timetable, the line is not expected to reach Leeds until 2032 although it has been recently suggested that the project may be speeded up.
The project has faced considerable criticism in recent weeks with opponents arguing the benefits are not worth the £43 billion price tag.