A PLEDGE that high-speed rail links to Leeds and Manchester will be built at the same time has been welcomed by a Huddersfield business group.
Transport Minister Philip Hammond told reporters that once the high-speed line from London had reached Birmingham “we will build out the Manchester and the Leeds branches simultaneously”.
His words were welcomed by the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce after fears that the Leeds branch would be left until last.
Steven Leigh, head of policy and representation for the chamber, said he was delighted that the government has confirmed there would be a “Y-shaped” construction – from London to Birmingham and onto both Manchester and Leeds – and that work on both “arms” would be undertaken simultaneously.
Public consultation into government plans for the new high-speed rail route – dubbed HS2 –close this Friday.
Supporters of HS2 – which would carry 200mph-plus trains and put Leeds 80 minutes from London – claim it will bring more than £2bn of economic benefits to Yorkshire..
Mr Leigh said research suggested the economic benefits for Leeds and Yorkshire would be twice as great as for Manchester and Lancashire.
He said he was also pleased that Mr Hammond had made a commitment to invest in existing rail services – including the trans-Pennine and Calder Valley lines – alongside investment in HS2.
Mr Leigh said: “The biggest issue is capacity. The network is predicted to be at full capacity in about 15 years time.
“To address the capacity issue, we can either add new tracks to the existing East and West Coast lines – very expensive and incredibly disruptive – or we can manage rail transport by making train travel ‘reservation only’ and priced accordingly to manage excess demand.
“Or we can build the latest high-speed rail facilities in a ‘Y’ configuration to provide the country with an efficient rail network for the 21st century.”
Mr Leigh said HS2 was “hugely important” for the UK, adding: “We are competing with countries like France, Germany and Japan which have fantastic transport systems. High-speed rail is desperately needed.”