77: A prosperous North
MAXIMISING THE BENEFITS OF HS2
Last month the long awaited report, “Rebalancing Britain”, focussing on how to maximise the benefits of HS2 in the North, was published. In the report HS2 Chairman, Sir David Higgins, re-iterates the aims and basis for HS2 and provides a number of recommendations as well as practical targets which he believes will help accelerate the benefits that HS2 will bring to the North.
The fundamental goals of HS2 include:
- Maximising the value added to local and regional economies
- Being a catalyst for change nationally and locally
- Integrating with existing and future transport services
As Sir David emphasises in his report, labour productivity in London is 50% higher than in the north of the country and the lack of appropriate and efficient connectivity is a key factor in this disparity. Addressing this problem through the delivery of HS2, argues Sir David, is a step towards creating a fairer and more equal society by reducing the north – south productivity and prosperity divide. However, the delivery of the scheme must be “sensitive” in order that it provides clear and direct benefits for the areas affected by its construction. Sir David also argues that HS2 should be linked to existing services in the region so that change for local people is tangible.
In summary, the recommendations Sir David puts forward are as follows:
The need for an Eastern and Western leg from Birmingham
There should still be an Eastern leg from Birmingham to Leeds via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, and a Western leg from Birmingham to Manchester via Crewe as this particular combination is the only way to delivery the strategic reductions and added capacity that are needed.
A North West hub at Crewe
The North West hub should be at Crewe as this is the best way to serve the local region as well as the best way to serve the North West, North Wales and Merseyside. The provision of this hub should be accelerated from 2033 to 2027 so that the North begins to feel the benefit of HS2 as soon as possible.
Leeds Station remodelling
There is a need for a fundamental review of the right solution for Leeds station as
by the time phase two of HS2 is complete the existing station will require remodelling anyway due to increased passenger numbers. In order to allow connections between HS2, existing rail services and improved east west connections the combined input of HS2 Ltd, Network Rail and Leeds City Council is required.
East west connectivity – practical plan
An agreed format and timetable is needed in order to ensure the plan for east to west connectivity in the North is formalised and actioned into a practical plan for the future.
Cohesive representative body for the North
There is a need for the formation of a joint transport body for the North which is able to articulate the Northern needs cohesively.
LONG TERM SUCCESS
The latter two of these recommendations have become the focus of most observers and politicians and the east west connectivity has become known as HS3. The more efficient and timely linking of the northern cities, potentially from Liverpool in the west through to Hull in the east has become the headline. With a key target being the reduction of the journey time between Leeds and Manchester from 55 minutes to anywhere between 26 and 34 minutes, it is easy to see why this report, and in particular the improvement of east west connectivity, has captured commentators’ attention.
Sir David’s report has been welcomed by the Government with David Cameron proclaiming, “jobs and security for the north” and George Osborne being delighted by the advent of the “Northern Powerhouse”. Following Sir David’s recommendation Mr Osborne has already acted on one of the recommendations by announcing the future creation of ‘Transport for the North’, a representative body of key transport players in northern cities and across the North. Together with the Government, Transport for the North will create a strategy and practical plan for the region in relation to the HS3 east west rail connection, another of Sir David’s recommendations. Mr Osborne also moved to announced the devolution of further responsibilities to a Greater Manchester “city region” mayor, which may or may not make the creation of Transport for the North easier.
In amongst these recommendations is one final note of advice from Sir David, of the need to learn from other infrastructure projects, particular in terms of reducing costs and increasing the pace at which the delivery of such projects is brought about. This may be the most difficult of his recommendations but it is also one of the most important for the public purse and for the long term success of infrastructure in the UK.
18 November 2014