High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Local Government Yorkshire and Humber (HSR 129)

Local Government Yorkshire and Humber (LGYH) is pleased to submit this response to help inform the Transport Select Committee's inquiry into the Government's proposals for a national high speed rail network. The network put forward in the DfT consultation would significantly reduce journey times to London from Yorkshire and Humber, helping to make the region a more attractive place to do business. This in turn could help to transform and rebalance the economy, making the north more prosperous and reducing the gap that exists between it and the South East.

The Leeds and Sheffield City Regions are currently leading work as part of the Eastern Network Partnership (in conjunction with the North East, Derby, and Nottingham councils) to provide further technical evidence to inform their response to the Government's consultation. We would urge the Committee to ensure that this Eastern Network Partnership be fully consulted in the course of this inquiry.

This response sets out the main messages from local government in Yorkshire and Humber on the importance of high speed rail in supporting future economic success.

1.  The Business Case for High Speed Rail

Fast, high quality, efficient inter-city transport links are essential to supporting economic growth and business activities. Without continuing investment into the rail network people's ability to do business will be reduced; as many north-south lines, including the East Coast, West Coast and Midland Main Lines are already operating at close to capacity and are projected to be at capacity in the future. This will require additional investment to provide further capacity to meet projected future demand.

The current journey times between some of largest cities in the country are slow and of poor quality by rail. For example, it takes 115 minutes to travel between Leeds and Nottingham, a distance of only 70 miles, meaning that the average speed is just 36 mph. By enhancing the performance of such networks, rail would become a more attractive mode of transport in comparison with the use of the car. Furthermore, this could help to facilitate trade and business linkages between these cities and their wider economic geographies, helping to rebalance the country's economy.

Without investment in rail infrastructure there is a significant risk that the UK could be left behind other countries that have chosen to prioritise improving the capacity and performance of their own infrastructure. The significant economic benefits that have been created in places such as Lille illustrate how investing in the rail network can act as a catalyst for regeneration, when combined with appropriate land use and economic development policies. This significant potential to help regenerate the economic geographies across Yorkshire and Humber—such as the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions, as well as the wider North Yorkshire and Humber sub-regions - makes a very strong case for investments to improve the capacity and performance of Britain's inter-city rail network.

2.  The strategic route required for High Speed Rail

The "Y" high speed rail network, as proposed by Government, has the potential to transform the shape of the national economy, helping to rebalance it through the growth of the north of England. This would connect some of the country's largest cities and the nature of high speed rail means that the more people connected the greater the economic benefits that would be generated.

From a Yorkshire and Humber perspective, stations in the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions would connect more than 4 million people and two million jobs located within these functional economic areas. This could help the two city regions to become increasingly integrated, as journey times would be significantly reduced between them. For Yorkshire and Humber, therefore, high speed rail is both important in terms of providing reduced journey times to London and by reducing journey times between the some of the other largest cities in the country. This proposed eastern leg of the "Y" would help to create, in effect, a single economic zone encompassing the East Midlands and the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions, which would have a combined population of 6.7 million people and 3 million jobs.

Research undertaken by the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions has demonstrated that the proposed "Y" network would generate significantly more economic benefits than the previous alternative route of the "Reverse S". This showed that the "Y" would generate wider economic impacts of £2.3 billion, whilst the "S" would generate only £0.4 billion.[340]

In the long-term, high speed rail would provide the best solution for enhancing rail capacity and performance between Yorkshire and Humber and London. However, as the current plans show, HSR will not connect to this region until 2032-33 and it is of fundamental importance to continue to invest in improving the performance of existing rail lines in the short to medium term. This investment will be vital to places such as Doncaster and York, which do not feature as direct HSR stations under current proposals and, therefore, will continue to rely on existing lines after the commencement of high speed rail services to Yorkshire and Humber.

We therefore believe that there is a very strong economic case for the "Y" network. The Benefit to Cost Ratios (BCR) published by HS2 in March 2010 showed that the benefits of high speed were significantly increased when it was extended to from London-to-Birmingham to Yorkshire and Humber, via the East Midlands. Consequently, we strongly support the "Y" network proposed and also call for a clear commitment of simultaneous investment in the existing rail network, which will be of vital importance to wider Yorkshire Humber and rebalancing the UK economy.

3.  How the route should be delivered

Whilst we recognise the need to phase delivery, high speed rail services and routes should be progressed to the Sheffield and Leeds City Regions and beyond as soon as possible, to create growth and jobs. There could be a significant east-west imbalance created in the economy of the north of England if the route to Manchester was progressed in advance of a route to Leeds for example. Data published by HS2 in March 2010 showed that the Benefits to Cost Ratio of the extension to Leeds were, in fact, double that of the extension to Manchester. We therefore believe that the link to Leeds via Sheffield should be delivered at the same time, if not in advance of, the link to Manchester, due to the strength of the economic case for the link.

The current consultation proposes, as part of phase 1 of HS2, to link directly to the West Coast Main Line to provide onward services to Manchester. Similarly, we believe that the Government must ensure a rapid and effective connection to the Midland Main Line (potentially in the Tamworth area) at the earliest time to allow high speed trains to run to Sheffield and Leeds, thereby increasing the overall benefits of HS2.

The onward connection proposed in the consultation to the North East and Scotland is particularly important to Yorkshire and Humber due to the economic linkages that currently exist between the two regions. Similarly, the opportunity to have significantly improved connectivity to the international gateways of Heathrow Airport and HS1 would help to improve the region's international linkages and trade relationships.

This onward connection to the North East, via the East Coast Main Line is also of further importance as it will provide York and thus North Yorkshire with a link to high speed services. Ensuring that this connection is fully incorporated into the network is therefore a top priority for Yorkshire and Humber.

4.  The need for simultaneous investment in the wider rail network

We recognise that the delivery of high speed rail to the north is a long-term project, with the connection to Leeds City Region estimated to open in 2032-33. Improvements to existing routes are therefore vital to deliver the benefits from improved performance in the short to medium term.

Existing proposals to upgrade and electrify the Midland Main Line, East Coast Main Line, Transpennine, Leeds-Sheffield and Leeds-York links can deliver substantial benefits, in some cases at modest costs. These improvements will also be of vital importance to ensuring that those places in Yorkshire and Humber not directly served by high speed rail can benefit through more direct services on the existing classic lines when high speed services commence.

As high speed will only serve a limited number of places directly in the City Regions, in terms of specific station locations, there is an urgent need for improvements to existing local and regional rail routes and services, to improve access to high speed stations and maximising the benefits provided. Ensuring that people can connect by public transport to the stations in Leeds and South Yorkshire will be of vital importance in ensuring that the opportunities created by high speed are spread throughout the city regions and beyond.

We therefore believe that high speed rail needs to form a part of an integrated strategy for the rail network. In order to maximise the benefits of high speed in Yorkshire and Humber it will be particularly important to consider how to make best use of the capacity released on existing lines to benefit the places in the region that will not be directly served by high speed rail.

May 2011

340   Arup and Volterra (2010). The Economic Case for High Speed Rail to Leeds City Region and Sheffield City Region, on behalf of SYPTE and Metro. Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011