Written evidence from Leeds City Council
1.1 Leeds City Council welcomes the Committee's
inquiry into the Government's proposals for High Speed Rail.
1.2 The proposals for a high speed rail network
are considered to offer major economic benefits for Leeds and
the Leeds city region which represents 5% of the overall UK economy
as well as opportunities to address the growing pressure on the
classic rail network especially the East Coast Main Line. As such
the Council supports the "Y" shaped network as proposed.
1.3 It is considered that the development of
a high speed network will offer the one-off opportunity for a
transformational change to the rail network, including connectivity
to international networks, in a way which does not seem feasible
for the classic network. However, parallel investment in the classic
network to meet demand and develop services during the likely
20 year plus period in which the network to Leeds is developed
should be strongly encouraged.
1.4 The timing and delivery of the network are
critical matters and the City Council believes that it is essential
that the proposed routes to the North should be developed in parallel
so as to maximise the overall benefit to the Northern economy.
2. THE CITY
2.1 Leeds City Council is presently considering
the implications of the Government's proposed strategy for high
speed rail prior to providing a full response in line with the
deadline set by the Secretary of State for Transport. At this
stage in the development of the high speed rail proposals the
Council is continuing to work with a range of partners and potential
stakeholders in the high speed rail project to develop a greater
understanding of the detailed impacts of the proposals. This includes
the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority; the Leeds city
region authorities; the Core Cities Group of England's eight largest
cities; and the High Speed Rail Eastern Network Partnership.
2.2 Leeds Metropolitan District sits at the heart
of the 11 local authority areas which together form the Leeds
City Region and forms basis for the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise
Partnership. Leeds' population of 800,000 makes up over a quarter
of the city region population of nearly 3 million and the
city contributes around 35% to the overall city region economy
of £51 billion GVA, which represents 5% of the overall
UK economy. Transport is therefore a vital part of maintaining
a competitive economy.
2.3 The LCR is host to a number of major businesses
and outside London, Leeds is the primary financial and business
services centre employing 95,000 people in Knowledge Intensive
Businesses. As well as this the City Region has significant strengths
in existing and emerging sectors, particularly environmental sciences,
electrical and optical equipment, bioscience, health and medical
research, and digital and creative industries and the highest
concentration of universities outside of London, and one of the
largest clusters in Europe, providing over 36,000 graduates per
year. Some 36% of the research produced by these higher education
institutions is deemed world class and 10% is deemed world leading.
National and international transport links are therefore critical
to the success of Leeds and the City Region.
2.4 The City Council therefore supports the proposals
for high speed rail and the proposals for a "Y" shaped
network and welcomes the inclusion of Leeds in the proposed network.
3. CHOICE OF
3.1 It is the City Council's view that the "Y"
shaped network offers the optimal and future proof solution for
providing the basis for a network that can properly serve the
North of England. By passing to the East and West it enables the
route to become accessible to the majority of the population of
England and as well as Leeds brings the East Midlands and South
Yorkshire directly within the catchment of the network. This option
also allows, in a way which the alternative reverse "S"
shaped network did not, for the North East of England and Scotland
to share in the benefits of the network initially through a direct
connection into the classic East Coast route and with the potential
to extend the high speed route. This also preserves options for
longer term incremental development of the high speed network
as well as ensuring that the network is less London focussed by
catering better for intermediate "cross-country" journeys.
3.2 The decision to include provision for links
to Heathrow Airport and directly to join the High Speed One route
to the Channel Tunnel are also to be welcomed. It is considered
that these additions to the route will improve its usefulness
by the potential it offers for rail-air interchange and for the
connectivity into the European high speed rail network. Having
recognised this opportunity it is important as the project develops
to formulate realistic plans for capture the benefits of this
link to connect the North to Europe with direct services.
4. THE CASE
4.1 The case for major investment in the UK rail
network is considered to remain very strong with a continuing
growing demand for rail travel both for local journeys and for
longer distance travel that is generated by a modern economy and
lifestyles which place a high value on good mobility. The completion
of the first high speed line (HS1) from London to the Channel
Tunnel has underlined the need to extend UK connectivity into
the wider international high speed networks that have been spreading
across Europe for several decades.
4.2 Improving journey speeds and hence connectivity
alongside the release of capacity on the classic network is the
main driver for the creation of a high speed network. The initial
forecast journey times Leeds to London which knock off around
one hour (or 60%) from the present journey time will be transformational
in comparison to previous route modernisations. What is also significant
is the much improved connectivity from Leeds to Birmingham and
the West Midlands where present journey times would be halved.
These changes will have a major impact on connectivity to Leeds
and are considered to justify the choice of 360 kph network with
the ultimate potential for 400 kph.
4.3 In terms of economic benefits the Government's
own analysis shows that the proposed "Y" shaped network
delivers an estimated £44 billion of economic benefits
over 60 years. Work for the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions
indicates potential wider economic benefits over £2 billion
and the Northern Way has estimated the economic agglomeration
benefits to North at over £6 billion. Sustaining strong
and growing economies in the face of international competition
and climate change requires a new approach to long distance travel.
4.4 The creation of a new network rather than
further route modernisation will deliver the transformational
change needed for the UK's railways. Whilst it may be possible
to increase the capacity of the existing main line routes serving
the North, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands, the
completion of the West Coast Main Line modernisation programme
at a cost of nearly £9 billion and a timescale of nine
years to completion shows the very significant costs incurred
by the "on-line" route improvements. Although this route
has created new capacity forecasts suggesting that by the 2020s
this will have been used up. Similarly whilst maximum speeds of
125 mph have enabled journey time improvements, this has
only delivered top speeds which have been the norm on significant
lengths of the East Coast and Great Western main lines for several
4.5 The West Coast Main Line modernisation illustrates
that modernising live railways, often on historic alignments passing
through heavily built up areas is a major and disruptive undertaking
carrying significant management and operational costs. It is also
difficult to significantly future proof classic routes for further
development, for example in terms of increasing train speeds.
This suggests that without a major step change of approach a transformational
approach to the country's inter-city networks is going to become
increasingly more difficult. Therefore the City Council believes
that the proposals for a purpose built high speed rail network
are a one-off opportunity for the UK rail network to brought to
a standard that matches those routes already established in Europe.
4.6 The City Council sees an urgent need to plan
for tackling deficiencies in the existing "classic"
rail network. For example on the East Coast Main Line the rolling
stock is between 20 and 30 years old and an infrastructure that
has seen a fraction of the investment made in the West Coast Main
Line and similar could also be said of the Midland Main Line.
Therefore the Council is firmly of the view that the development
and progression of High Speed Rail proposals ultimately should
provide for a durable and flexible "once and for all"
solution. But in the meantime this should not be at the expense
of this much needed investment in the classic routes, such as
the Intercity Express Project to modernise the train fleet and
investments in line speed and capacity enhancements.
4.7 High speed rail, by "freeing-up"
capacity on the classic rail network, will provide opportunities
to utilise their capacity to provide better services for centres
not served by the new routes. This additional capacity should
also enable greater provision to be made for growing the role
of rail freight.
4.8 What is less well quantified in the present
work and will need to be understood better from experience elsewhere
is the undoubted potential for transformational change to those
centres through which the route will pass. Again the City Council
recognises this potential opportunity and is working to understand
what it will mean for th city and city region.
5. TIMING OF
5.1 Whilst costs, logistics and industry capacity
may well make it inevitable that a national high speed rail network
will need to be delivered in phases, it is important that the
full network is delivered at the earliest possible timescale and
that every step is taken to minimise the time between the opening
of the Birmingham route and completion of the wider network. In
this regard it is particularly important that both legs of the
"Y" to Manchester and Leeds are delivered in parallel
to ensure the economic and transformational advantages expected
to be brought about by the arrival of high speed route can be
shared. In this regard it is noted that previous work by HS2 indicated
a potentially higher benefit cost ratio for the Eastern leg which
suggests a strong case for the early progression of this section
5.2 Leeds City Council at its Full Council Meeting
on 6 April 2011, recognised the critical importance of the timing
of project's delivery when the following resolution was passed:
That this Council expresses concern that the Government's
proposed hybrid bill relating to High Speed Rail will only adopt
legal and planning powers for a route from London to the West
Midlands. This Council therefore calls on the Government to reaffirm
its commitment to bringing the social, economic and environmental
benefits of High Speed Rail to Leeds by expanding the detail of
the upcoming hybrid bill to include a framework for the north
5.3 Since the full high-speed network is not
expected to be completed until 2032-33 it is important that investment
in the classic network continues in the short to medium term.
Such investment will not only sustain vital inter-city services
on the East Coast main line but will also allow the continued
development of regional and city region rail networks in order
that the benefits of high speed rail for the classic network can
be realised across the widest possible area. It is considered
especially important that good connectivity from centres not on
the high speed network is provided and that therefore modernisation
of local rail networks alongside or ahead of the project is very
important. There as well as the East Coast route investment in
the key Trans-Pennine routes (both via Huddersfield and also the
Calder Vale-Bradford/Halifax-Line) and local networks in West
Yorkshire will be important to ensuring the widest possible inclusion
of communities in the benefits of high speed rail.