Next stop for plan to bring ‘world-class’ high speed rail testing base to Leeds

High speed rail is due to arrive in Leeds in the next two decades. Stock image.
High speed rail is due to arrive in Leeds in the next two decades. Stock image.
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Plans for the UK’s first dedicated hub for high-speed rail technology to be built in Leeds have moved a step closer.

The University of Leeds says its planned Institute for High Speed Railways and System Integration could help “unlock the full potential of high speed rail, nationally and globally.”

The positioning of the University, the City Region and Yorkshire as a whole as a global centre for high speed rail will create many opportunities for strengthening the local economy.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority report

West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s investment committee has now given conditional approval to an application for it to fund half the £23m cost of the first phase of the project, with the university funding the other half.

If built, the “world-class” centre of excellence for high speed rail planning, design, construction and manufacturing would include a 400 kilometre per hour high speed testing facility able to test railway track structures and rolling stock.

With HS2 due to arrive in the city in the next two decades, the combined authority says the institute will “help maximise these benefits by establishing the University and Leeds City Region as a global lead in high speed rail engineering and research”.

3,000 new jobs on track for Leeds at rail hub

It adds: “The new Institute will complement and build upon the expertise already in the region (eg at Huddersfield University and the Network Rail campus in York) to help establish Leeds City Region as a high-performing regional sector with critical mass in railway engineering research and development.”

The current preferred site for the 40,000 square metre facility would be near the proposed HS2 rolling stock depot to the east of the city.

Among the expected benefits of the scheme would be keeping more university graduates in the city and the creation of high value employment.

A combined authority report says: “There is a strong commercial case for this investment. The outputs require greater definition, but the long term outcomes of the investment are clear. The positioning of the University, the City Region and Yorkshire as a whole as a global centre for high speed rail will create many opportunities for strengthening the local economy.”

Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan said of the development last year: “We want to use that technology as a honeypot for potential investors and manufacturers who will also need to test their rolling stock.”

High speed rail hope

The recent Northern timetable chaos has highlighted the need for long-term action to improve capacity on the region’s railways, according to a Yorkshire council leader.

Susan Hinchcliffe of Bradford Council was speaking before the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Conference in Leeds yesterday, which focused on how HS2 can improve the economic prospects for the region.

The event featured a key note address from HS2 Minister Nus Ghani as well as a speech by Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd.

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