City leaders met with HS2 chiefs last week to lobby for construction of the new high-speed rail link to begin in Leeds.
The HS2 board, chaired by recently appointed Sir David Higgins current chief executive of Network Rail, visited Leeds as a first port-of-call for wider consultations about HS2 to hear the city’s mandates.
A strong case to begin building HS2 from the North was put to the board by the Leeds delegation led by Leeds City Council Leader, Councillor Keith Wakefield, which was warmly welcomed by Sir David Higgins.
Senior councillors believe the start date of 2027 for the link to Leeds is too far away and must be brought forward by starting construction in Leeds – allowing the region to begin making the most of economic benefits and new construction jobs sooner.
With over 900 trains and 100,000 passengers everyday using the North’s busiest railway station at Leeds it is expected economic benefits from early HS2 investment would ripple out across the region carried by a network of improved transport links.
Leeds City Council Councillor and Metro chair James Lewis said: “High-speed rail is an incredible opportunity for Leeds with the potential to create thousands of new job and homes – an opportunity on a scale we have never seen before.
“HS2 has unwavering support from Leeds. We are very enthusiastic to welcome high-speed rail to Leeds and have tightly integrated it into our ambitious regeneration plans for the city.
“Leeds has a projected rail user growth of almost 70 per cent by 2029 for this very reason alone it makes sense to start engineering and construction of HS2 right here.
“However we are concerned the route needs to be right to benefit our region and we’re asking the board to revisit this. Today was a chance to demonstrate our commitment to doing all we can to ensure we get the best possible benefits for our city and our region.”
Fresh investment thanks to a proposed iconic new railway station in Leeds is being seen as a catalyst for regeneration of the south bank area.
Leeds also heard more about HS2’s plans to provide a college that would train people to work on the rail project and voiced its aspiration for the new college to be built in the Leeds city region.
The HS2 board’s visit was further marked by the launch of a programme recruiting business ambassador’s. The programme sees local businesses pledge their support to HS2 while helping to keep people informed about the positive impact high-speed rail would have on their lives.
Fore Consulting, Town Centre Securities, Shulmans solicitors, Land Securities and Think Architecture have already signed up and more are expected to join.