Councils respond positively to HS2 announcement - but call for investment in 'onward links'

 

Councils in cities in the North of England which will be served by HS2 have welcomed the announcement as "excellent news" but said they also want to see a "significant Government package of investment" in onward links.

Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield said: "We have lobbied long and hard for a high-speed rail link to Leeds and this is excellent news.

"It will strengthen Leeds' position as the northern transport hub and unlock major investment, jobs opportunities and connectivity to the rest of the country."

But Labour councillor Mr Wakefield said: "The proposed station offers a unique opportunity to create a striking new gateway into the city centre, but will only work if the interchange links directly into Leeds station and comes with a significant Government package of investment in its infrastructure, road and rail links to the rest of the city region area.

"HS2 could be pivotal in driving our plans to regenerate the city centre's South Bank but the Government needs to ensure any disruption to communities is minimised during the construction of both the line and the station."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will welcome this latest news on HS2, which will radically increase space and new services for the north.

"It could also lead to better connectivity between towns and cities - not just London routes. Almost as important is the space freed up on existing routes which will open up more new journey opportunities."

Record producer and rail enthusiast Pete Waterman, who has has campaigned for HS2 to go to the north west, said: "Building this high-speed rail link will improve the lives of millions of people. It is a visionary plan to solve our present rail capacity problems and will create fantastic economic opportunities."

The board member of Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, added: "Railway innovation has always driven economic growth and I believe it will create jobs in the parts of Britain that need them most by linking major northern cities with Birmingham and London.

"There are also the wider benefits, including regeneration around stations, the creation of further jobs indirectly-linked to the construction of the line, inward investment, connectivity of the regions and increased trade links."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will welcome this latest news on HS2, which will radically increase space and new services for the north.

"It could also lead to better connectivity between towns and cities - not just London routes. Almost as important is the space freed up on existing routes which will open up more new journey opportunities."

Record producer and rail enthusiast Pete Waterman, who has has campaigned for HS2 to go to the north west, said: "Building this high-speed rail link will improve the lives of millions of people. It is a visionary plan to solve our present rail capacity problems and will create fantastic economic opportunities."

The board member of Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, added: "Railway innovation has always driven economic growth and I believe it will create jobs in the parts of Britain that need them most by linking major northern cities with Birmingham and London.

"There are also the wider benefits, including regeneration around stations, the creation of further jobs indirectly-linked to the construction of the line, inward investment, connectivity of the regions and increased trade links."

A spokesman for Leicestershire County Council said the authority had concerns about the effect of the route.

He said: "We need to look at this announcement in detail and will do so quickly but we are concerned already about the possible adverse impact on communities in north west Leicestershire and the proposed Roxhill development near the airport, plus questions about how Leicestershire passengers can connect with the HS2 service.

"The leader has already expressed his concerns and the matter will be considered through the council's decision-making processes."

A spokesman for Leicestershire County Council said the authority had concerns about the effect of the route.

He said: "We need to look at this announcement in detail and will do so quickly but we are concerned already about the possible adverse impact on communities in north west Leicestershire and the proposed Roxhill development near the airport, plus questions about how Leicestershire passengers can connect with the HS2 service.

"The leader has already expressed his concerns and the matter will be considered through the council's decision-making processes."

Salford City Council's Assistant Mayor for Transport, Roger Jones, who is also vice-chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: "This is the decision we have been campaigning for over the last 10 years. It is an investment in the future of the local economy.

"Building an HS2 hub in Greater Manchester will help to connect the big cities of the North to each other, and to the South, by bringing travel times down.

"The move will also help to relieve the bulging capacity we already face on local rail networks as HS2 trains and stations will be able to cope with almost 20,000 passengers per hour."

Salford Mayor Ian Stewart said: "This decision is great news for Salford and for the wider city region.

"This investment will bring growth, jobs and prosperity to the region that the people of Salford will be a part of.

"This world-class travel system will help to solidify Salford and the wider region's place as an emerging economic powerhouse."

Nottinghamshire County Council welcomed the announcement.

Under the plans, the high-speed rail network line will split at Water Orton, east of Birmingham, with the eastern branch heading towards Nottingham and Derby, going under East Midlands Airport and swinging north past East Midlands Parkway and Trent junction to a new East Midlands station at Toton Sidings.

North of Toton the line is expected to broadly follow the M1 northwards.

The western branch will run via Crewe and on to Manchester.

Richard Jackson, chairman of the county council's transport and highways committee, said: "We have been lobbying for this for three years.

"This is good news for the economy of Nottinghamshire and the region as a whole.

"Improving the transport infrastructure is critical for unlocking the full potential of business in our county.

"Train travel is the main mode of transport for business travel to and from the capital and most international flights arrive and depart from the London airports.

"This latest news, combined with the dualling of the A453 and the much-needed improvements to the Midland main line will give Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands region as a whole an environment where businesses can flourish - and that's good news for all our residents."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said: "The modernisation and expansion of rail in the UK is many years overdue and while RMT welcomes any belated investment and development we must not forget that it is decades of political inertia that have left Britain's railways in the slow lane.

"We are miles behind the rest of Europe when it comes to high speed and electrification because our railways have been fragmented and run for private profit rather than as a public service for the past 20 years.

"We must make sure we don't fall for the old political trick of rail staff cuts and high fares today on the promise of high speed jam tomorrow."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association warned ministers against turning High Speed Two into "a rich man's toy" which will only benefit business passengers.

"We obviously welcome the huge investment in high speed rail travel which will bring much needed economic re-generation to the Midlands and the North of England.

"But we don't want this service to be so expensive that ordinary families will not be able to use it to get around the country quickly and at affordable prices.

"The walk-on return fare between London and Manchester is already eye wateringly high at over £300. We don't want to see just those exclusive high fares on the new line which will make the service solely a rich man's toy.

"Everyone is going to pay for this with higher taxes, so everyone should be able to use it."

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Business welcomes the Prime Minister's commitment to extending high-speed rail to the great cities of the Midlands and the North. Transformative infrastructure projects like HS2 create confidence, jobs and competitiveness, as long as commitments and announcements lead swiftly to action on the ground.

"Our existing railway network is at capacity and cannot be endlessly patched up at astronomical cost, as opponents of HS2 continue to suggest."

John Cridland, director general of the CBI, said: "We cannot sit on our hands when the West Coast Main Line is set to reach full capacity by the 2020s and freight will be squeezed.

"Extending HS2 to the North is the project's big prize. It will boost the economic potential of some of our biggest cities, driving growth and creating jobs across the country. This is the same bold, long-term thinking that helped the Victorians build our original network."

PA

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