The Government’s recent green-light for HS2 has ignited discussions about the benefits the new rail line will bring to the North: following fears that the line would stop at Birmingham, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has confirmed it will reach Leeds and Manchester.
Leeds already has one of the fastest-growing economies in the UK, so how will HS2 affect the city’s fortunes?
Reduction of Travel Times
The main benefit HS2 will have is the reduction of travel times – journeys from Leeds to London will be 50 minutes shorter than on existing lines. Passengers travelling from Leeds to Sheffield and Birmingham will also experience much shorter journey times.
A review of the project led by former HS2 chairman Doug Oakervee reported that the new rail line could boost Leeds and Manchester more than London, due to better connections on intercity routes.
There will also be more seats available for commuters travelling by HS2. As well as reduced travel times and improved connectivity.
There are massive implications for Leeds train station too. In order to accommodate HS2, there are plans for a huge expansion of the city centre station. The extended station will be located south of the current train station, running across Neville Street and beyond Bridgewater Place.
Creation of An Engineering Research Hub
Another benefit of HS2 is the confirmation of a new £80 million HS2 depot in the region. Situated alongside the University of Leeds’ new institute for high speed rail, the combination of the depot and the University’s advanced testing facilities will create an engineering research hub.
Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary at the time of the announcement, said; “The depot will act as an economic catalyst, creating skilled jobs, boosting the local economy by unlocking regeneration opportunities and driving continued investment.
“This ensures Leeds will not only see immediate benefits when HS2 arrives but will see Yorkshire become a thriving hub for training the engineers that HS2 and future major projects will need.”
Concerns Regarding HS2
Despite all of the benefits HS2 will bring to Leeds, some local communities have raised concerns about the project.
Some local campaigners have voiced their opposition to infrastructure developments required for HS2. Plans for a viaduct between Leeds and Woodlesford have been the focus of particular local opposition.
Environmental groups have also raised concerns that HS2 will destroy irreplaceable natural landscapes and harm wildlife.
However, HS2 Ltd claims that the new railway line will actually bring environmental benefits. This is due to the fact that HS2 will provide cleaner transport than cars and diesel trains.