CHANCELLOR George Osborne has declared he is “open to all ideas” that increase the economic impact of a new high speed rail line to Yorkshire paving the way for billions of pounds of investment in Leeds to be brought forward.
The Treasury has been seen as a potential obstacle to a move to speed up the delivery of HS2 because any changes are likely to involve spending higher sums of money earlier in the lifetime of the project.
But speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post yesterday, the Chancellor made clear his support for HS2 and the boost it could give to the North’s economy.
He said: “(HS2 chairman) Sir David Higgins is looking at the speed of the project and how we go about delivering it to make sure we get value for money for the taxpayer.
“But we’re also looking at how in Leeds and across the whole of West Yorkshire we are maximising the number of jobs that are going to be created and the number of businesses that are going to be created.
“So we are looking at all of this and I’m really open to all ideas. I’ve been a passionate advocate of High Speed Two right from the very beginning and I think it will transform the economic geography of our country to the better.”
Earlier this week, Sir David Higgins suggested work could begin on the northern and southern legs of HS2 at the same time.
At the moment the line is due to be built from London to Birmingham first, with a second phase seeing one line continue north to Manchester and a second going north-east calling at stops at Meadowhall and a new station in Leeds known as New Lane.
Mr Osborne said the biggest issue facing HS2 was the “lengthy process” of getting planning permission and parliamentary approval for the project and agreeing compensation for those adversely affected.
“We also want to make sure we are maximising the economic benefits,” he said.
Mr Osborne will today launch a £600m package of rail improvements that could generate £4bn and 20,000 jobs for the North.
The Chancellor will be in Manchester to see the start of work on the Northern Hub, a series of upgrades and electrifications designed to increase capacity and speed up journey times on the northern rail network including in and out of Leeds.