Leeds City Council leader 'confident' that HS2 route to Yorkshire will not be scrapped
The leader of Leeds City Council has said she is not convinced that a review into HS2 will call for the scrapping of the eastern leg to Yorkshire.
Judith Blake said that the greatest capacity for economic change lay on the eastern leg of the high speed route from Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds and that getting rid of HS2 would make plans for high speed rail between the east and west of the country far more expensive and difficult to implement.
Speaking at the launch of the the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into the scheme, Ms Blake added that a lack of devolved Government in Yorkshire was not behind speculation over the scrapping of the Yorkshire link and that the likelihood was that such claims lay more in the population density in the region being higher along the planned route than the North West.
Ms Blake also added that many of the recent high-profile inward investments into Leeds in recent years had been done so on the promise of HS2 coming to the city and warned on the impact this would have going forward.
The summit was convened in anticipation of the independent review into HS2, led by Douglas Oakervee, being published later in the week.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post she said: "I am not convinced they will cancel the Eastern leg.
"When this project was first mooted by Andrew Adonis we made a very strong case for the ‘Y’ model to be implemented because we absolutely believed that the biggest potential for transformation was on an eastern leg.
“In the last few years we have had the likes of Channel 4 and Burberry investing into Leeds, and they did so on the promise of better transport links because they know that connectivity is so vital."
Ms Blake said that she welcomed the review and that the North had not reason to fear it.
“From our point of view it allows us the opportunity to reframe the debate.
“For too long the debate has been all about speed, we now have the chance to blow that out of the water."
"The relationship with the North and the Midlands has been transformed and we are now working together as one.
“We must get away from this debate about having either HS2 or Northern Powerhouse Rail, what we are saying to that is ‘no way’.
“We need both. Without HS2 the cost of Northern Powerhouse Rail will increase.
“Yorkshire is already bottom of the table when it comes to planned investment.
“Our infrastructure is already based on Victorian engineering from 170 year ago. We need to look at this as an investment that can allow the North to live up to its true potential.
"HS2 will allow us to develop our capacity. Forty per cent of passengers commuting into Leeds currently have to stand."
Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood, added that HS2 gave the country the chance to build a new national railway infrastructure that was fit for the 21st century.
“HS2 is one thing that we have a real case for.
"If we get it it allows us to plan for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“The good news is that this time we are set for it, with the quality of the businesses and universities that we have. .
“However, if it is to be an opportunity and not a threat, we need to have transformational leadership and that lies at the heart of the argument for HS2.
“The argument for HS2 so often does not take account of the productivity benefits and does not look at the new jobs it will create, only the current ones.
“The rise of big data, artificial intelligence and robotics will eliminate old jobs and create new, higher paid jobs in their place.
“The places that benefit from this will be the well-connected clusters.
“The Uk is so tiny, it should prosper, but it is so congested. Unless there is transformational change to better link the Midlands and North we will not make the UK more competitive.
“The economies in the North and the Midlands are hugely important but getting between these cities is torture.
“HS2 is also critical to Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will link HS2 to Liverpool and the North East.
“NPR is much more difficult to do without it.
“And then there are the environmental benefits. If you look at the country’s targets to reduce carbon emissions, we are going to have to shoulder a cost to the economy unless we add additional capacity for travel and rail is the best option.
“Hs2 is not perfect, but it is the best option we have and not to do it would cause massive damage."