Pop music producer Pete Waterman is a surprise inclusion on a new taskforce set up to maximise the economic benefits of the High Speed Two (HS2) rail project.
The Deparment of Transport's HS2 Growth Taskforce, led by Lord Deighton, the former head of the London Organising Committee for the Olympics, comprises a number of esteemed academics, politicians and business figures. It will examine the regeneration opportunities the controversial rail project can deliver.
Better known for his 22 UK number 1 singles with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Cliff Richard, Mr Waterman's interest in railways led to his inclusion on the panel. He has run a number of heritage railway maintenance companies, including the London & North Western Railway, which was the largest privately owned company of its kind.
He told The Independent that “there was always a concern that the route itself would overwhelm the benefits to the local communities… we needed to get more out of it than just a fast route.”
His love affair with trains goes back as far as 1962, prior to his career in music, when he left school at 14 to go and work in a railway depot.
He also sits on the board of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which liaises with local authorities and businesses about job creation and business growth. Regarding the impact of the railway to Cheshire, he said that “HS2 is critical for the growth of our county and the whole of North West.”
The Department of Transport has said that “Lord Deighton has pulled together an incredibly impressive group of people for this taskforce, all highly respected experts in their field,” adding that “their skills and experience will help ensure that we squeeze every possible benefit from this vital project.”
As well as Mr Waterman, the HS2 taskforce includes notable names including Sir John Rose, former CEO of Rolls-Royce, and Sir Howard Bernstein, CEO of Manchester City Council, who was involved in bringing a metro service to Manchester and securing the city as the host for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The taskforce will hope to promote the positive economic benefits of the railway after public faith in the project was further shaken this month with the announcement that the HS2 budget had risen from £34.5bn to £42.6bn, with rolling stock accounting for an additional £7.5bn. The high-speed railway connecting London to the West Midlands and Northern England is due to be completed in 2033.