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Lord Deighton calls on the UK to be HS2-ready

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An initial report by the independent HS2 Growth Taskforce makes clear that the HS2 project is far more than just a transport scheme, but is a once in a generation chance to change the face of the country. It recognises that government, local areas and businesses, will need to work together to make the opportunity a reality and squeeze every possible benefit from the project. The report calls for towns and cities across the country to act now to become “HS2-ready” – suggesting that cities could start to benefit long before the first HS2 train arrives by planning ahead and securing wider investment. The Taskforce is clear that attracting investment early and redeveloping areas now will help reap bigger rewards. An important element of this discussion is that potential benefits do not just apply to places directly on the HS2 route such as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester –  but to cities such as Liverpool, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes, Preston, Wigan, Bradford, York that will benefit from better ’classic’ line services.

The HS2 Growth Taskforce was set up by the Secretary of State for Transport in June, and this initial report sets out the key areas on which its final report will focus. It will provide recommendations to Government early next year. Commercial Secretary and HS2 Growth Taskforce Chair Lord Deighton said: “HS2 is set to be the biggest construction project in Europe and it’s vital we harness the huge potential that it offers the UK. It’s not just a transport project and it’s not just for one central government department to deliver in isolation. In our report next year, the Taskforce will challenge Whitehall and local government leaders to step up and play their part in this transformative scheme. Growth and regeneration won’t just be handed to us on a plate – we need to think big, we need to plan ahead and most importantly we need to work together if we are to really make the most of this once in a generation opportunity.”

Lawrie Quinn, Chair of the Railway Engineers Forum said: “this report has thrown down the gauntlet to the UK construction and engineering industry.  As we showed with the Olympics, the industry is ready and waiting to deliver. The HS1 project shows the potential of infrastructure projects to give a new generation of Britons world-class skills they can go and sell to the world and to bring about a lasting legacy for jobs and communities. HS2 will have a similar transformational effect. HS2 is vital for connecting our cities together, and for dealing with the capacity crunch on our railways.  Huge amounts of money have been spent on regeneration projects in major cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, but because we’ve never connected them up they haven’t realised their full economic potential. As Doug Oakervee’s Bradshaw lecture yesterday pointed out, the lack of capacity and connectivity between our biggest cities means that either a new high speed line or a whole new motorway network is needed to bring our infrastructure back up to speed.  HS2 is the clear solution; we just need to get on with it.”

Lord Deighton went on to note that in Japan high speed rail stations have helped boost employment by between 16 and 34 percent. Closer to home redevelopment of King’s Cross Station has seen public investment of £500 million attract £2.2 billion of private sector investment. Combined with the effects of HS1 and St Pancras International, the area as a whole is set to see 22,000 new jobs created by 2020.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am extremely grateful to Lord Deighton and the Taskforce for their work and I am confident it will help ensure we maximise the benefits of HS2 right across Britain. With more than 95 per cent of Crossrail’s budget to date being spent in the UK, I am determined that HS2 will replicate and build on this success for British businesses. It is a challenging project and as I have said many times before the easy thing would be to do nothing. But this government is committed to HS2 because it is vital to Britain’s future. I look forward to receiving the final report and recommendations from the taskforce early next year.”

Following successful meetings in Birmingham and Manchester, the Taskforce will continue to meet with city leaders and businesses across the country to inform its work, before submitting its final report to government early next year. Download the full report here: HS2 growth taskforce – the challenge