Construction work should begin on Leeds’ new high-speed rail station within the next six years, the new head of HS2 has said.
Sir David Higgins said he is “passionate” about bringing the new 250mph rail line to West Yorkshire as quickly as possible.
Sir David, who took up his £591,000-a-year post as chairman of HS2 last week, is embarking on a two-month review of the project for the Government, seeking ways to bring forward its planned 2033 completion date and reduce its £50bn cost.
Sir David said he has already spoken to Ministers about the possibility of shortening a lengthy Parliamentary process which is not expected to see the final HS2 Bill given Royal Assent until late 2020.
He will also speak to the Treasury about speeding up its annual spend on the project, to finish the line more quickly.
But he made clear he also wants to see Northern cities such as Leeds begin construction work on their new HS2 stations as soon as the Bill becomes law.
“I’ve made the point when I’ve spoken to Government - why does the Bill take until the end of 2020 to get through?” he asked.
“And if that can be brought forward, why don’t we immediately start developing on the Northern side, and bring those benefits earlier?
“I particularly like the idea in Leeds, for example, of building the shell of the station as soon as you get started - as soon as you get Royal Assent. It gives confidence to the industry to invest.”
The new HS2 stations are expected to spark huge regeneration schemes in their local areas. Transport planners point to the transformation of the area around King’s Cross in central London following the refurbishment of St Pancras station.
The proposed Leeds New Lane station is to be built just to the south of the River Aire in the city centre, linked to the existing station by a pedestrian walkway.
Sir David said the sooner the new station is built, the sooner new firms will begin to arrive.
“While the trains may come in 2033 - I am hoping earlier - (businesses) would know that it’s going to come, because we’ve committed to the station already,” Sir David said.
“I know Manchester is thinking in exactly the same way - they’re not going to wait until 2033 to start redeveloping.”
The new service will cut journey times to London by one hour.