Grant Woodward: What’s the point of HS2 when I can’t even get to work in Leeds?

Traffic building up towards and from the Armley gyratory.
Traffic building up towards and from the Armley gyratory.
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A new train station by 2033 is exciting. But in the meantime, those of us who live and work in Leeds are left with the grim slog of getting in and out of the city centre every day.

HERE’S a few figures for you. Three-and-a-half miles. 40 minutes. Two spaces.

That’s how far I live away from work, the time it takes to drive here, and the number of halfway affordable parking spaces left when I arrive.

It’s why I had to laugh at the big news this week that Leeds is to undergo a “colossal revamp” to accommodate a new station for the HS2 high-speed rail scheme.

Let’s be clear. It’s great that planners have seen sense and now want to integrate Leeds’ proposed HS2 station with the city’s existing railway station.

The original idea of having passengers trudge from Asda House to catch connecting trains was a complete non-starter.

Ex-council leader Keith Wakefield, now transport chief at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, says he hopes the new station will be a “St Pancras in the North”.

Me too. And the fact that the expanded Leeds station will be the biggest in the region if and when it opens is another sizeable feather in the city’s cap.

The only snag is, that won’t be until 2033. And in two decades’ time you wonder if shaving 45 minutes off a train journey to London will still cut the mustard for an outlay of £80 billion.

In the meantime, those of us who live and work in Leeds are left with the grim slog of getting in and out of the city centre every day.

This has now become a mission of epic proportions.

I pride myself on having got every short cut and rat run between my house and town down pat.

But even then I struggle to beat a 40-minute journey time from door to door.

With HS2 you’d be on the outskirts of Birmingham by then – hammering home just how appalling the city’s own transport network really is.

Rush hour is now still at its peak long after 9am. Every major route in and out of the city is more clogged up than your average Glaswegian’s arteries.

And when you do get into the city centre you can either expect to pay through the nose to park or be forced to dump your car somewhere you’re not entirely sure it will be safe – and still pay a few quid for the privilege.

Every morning – when there’s still a space left, that is – I park on a street in the red light area where I have to dodge the used condoms scattered around my car. But unless I want to pay £7 a day it’s my cheapest option.

All in all, getting in and out of Leeds city centre is a thoroughly miserable experience – and HS2 isn’t going to change that.

But why is it that Leeds is a special case? For all the cash set to be thrown at us on HS2, why do we remain the biggest city in Europe without a metro rail or tram network?

Nottingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Sheffield. All of them are far smaller than Leeds yet each has its own transit system that gets people where they need to go both quickly and cheaply.

Supertram came a decade too late and was deemed to be too expensive at £500 million.

Yet the Crossrail system in London was given the go ahead at £20 billion. And straight after axing Supertram then Chancellor Alistair Darling gave the green light to a similar scheme in Edinburgh, which just so happened to be his constituency.

I’m not fussy. Give me a monorail, an underground tube network, a decent tram system. Anything that makes my daily journey slightly less hellish.

Trolleybus convinces no one that it will make a significant dent in congestion. The bus is no good because for the most part it travels in the same lanes as car traffic.

The truth is the eye-popping sums due to be spent on HS2 can’t disguise the fact that Leeds has been stiffed for decades.

So forgive me if I don’t get too excited about the prospect of a 90-minute journey time to London.

Not when it takes me that long to just get in and out of the city where I live.

Ripper took us for a ride

NO ONE can deny that Peter Sutcliffe is an evil, warped and thoroughly despicable individual.

He murdered at least 13 women in cold blood and there’s no guessing how many more he’d have butchered if blind luck hadn’t led police to catch him.

But was he ever really mad?

It’s been announced that Sutcliffe is “no longer mentally ill”. It means that after decades in a secure hospital he can now be moved to a normal prison.

But in my book he should have been there all along.

Can someone ever really be cured of mental illness – especially one that’s apparently responsible for them killing innocent people?

I’m not convinced.

But more fundamentally, do we really believe the Ripper was deranged in the first place?

This was a man who was able to keep up an air of normality in his day to day life that meant he dodged detection even when he was a perfect fit for all the available evidence.

At his trial, Sutcliffe admitted the killings but denied murder, claiming voices from God told him to rid the streets of prostitutes.

It kept him out of prison, where he may not have lasted too long, and bought him a cushy number in Broadmoor complete with Freeview, a DVD player and visits from his pal Jimmy Savile while he was alive.

I’m glad he’s about to wave that goodbye. But for me it’s 31 years too late.

I’m not sweet on Jamie Oliver idea

ANDREA Jenkyns – the MP for Outwood and Morley – may be a Tory, but I actually found myself agreeing with her this week.

She told me she’s opposed to the so-called ‘Sugar Tax’ on fizzy drinks being pushed by Jamie Oliver because she isn’t convinced it would halt the childhood obesity epidemic.

She believes it would hit families in more deprived areas in the pocket while doing nothing to change their shopping habits – and that education and clearer labelling must be tried first.

I reckon she’s got a point. It was only when our twins arrived that I started paying attention to how much sugar was in everyday foods – and the small print shocked me.

But aside from doing your research, surely there’s one fool-proof way to keep your kids off sugar, apart from the occasional treat.

Just say no when little Johnny demands a chocolate bar or can of pop.

Is that really so hard?

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