HS2 Eastern leg essential to project’s success, says new chair

Artists’ impression of the East Midlands Hub station at Toton.

Sir Terry Morgan has used his first engagement as chair of HS2 to reinforce support for Phase 2b of the project, outlining its importance in the success of the UK’s biggest ever infrastructure scheme.

Speaking at an event in Newcastle hosted by Turner Townsend on behalf of HS2 East, a partnership which represents areas along the eastern leg of the Phase 2b route in the East Midlands and north of England, Sir Terry also signalled his intent to ramp up the organisation’s commitment to the skills agenda, outlining an ambition to create 5,000 apprenticeships, well over double the current target of 2,000.

Drawing comparisons with his experience as chair of Crossrail, Sir Terry suggested economic opportunities and job creation arising from HS2 Phase 2b would be far greater than currently anticipated. He was joined at the HS2 East event by former head of the Civil Service Lord Kerslake and major political and business leaders from across England.

The eastern leg of Phase 2b is a high speed connection between Birmingham, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds. It will unlock economic potential, creating tens of thousands of additional jobs and opportunities to benefit millions of residents. Greater connectivity between these key city regions will also boost productivity, nurturing a powerful super-economy of eight million people and four million jobs.

Sir Terry Morgan, Chair of HS2 said: “We need to stop thinking of HS2 as just a train line and recognise its potential to transform the lives of thousands of young people in this country. HS2 has committed to supporting the creation of 2,000 apprenticeships. I’m going further and saying this figure will be over 5,000.

“Skills and the regeneration of communities will be the long-term legacy of this project and the economic benefits are likely to significantly outstrip current projections. As ex-chair of Crossrail, I can tell you that we’ve already seen a boost to the economy that is more than double what we first thought, before the first train has even left the platform.

“For HS2 to work for the whole of the UK, Phase 2b must continue to move forward. The line will connect some of the country’s most promising growth areas, with Toton, Sheffield, Leeds, Chesterfield and Newcastle all set to reap significant rewards. This prosperity will not be restricted to urban centres, it will also be felt by the communities in the surrounding towns and rural areas.”

Lord Kerslake, former Head of the Civil Service said: “Phase 2b of HS2 must go ahead if we’re to achieve the economic rebalancing this country desperately needs. It’s true that London has the most developed economy in Northern Europe, but the UK is also home to five of the six poorest regions in this same geography.

“By linking key centres in the Midlands and the North East, HS2 will narrow spatial inequalities and become the backbone of a revitalised rail network.”

Andrew Pritchard from HS2 East, East Midlands Councils and Midlands Connect said: “The eastern leg of Phase 2b is not expendable. Local and regional partners in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and beyond must band together to remind Government of the considerable value Phase 2b will bring to the UK economy.

“Over 60 per cent of Phase Two’s economic benefits come from the Eastern leg. Nobody can deny that better linking key regional centres will attract inward investment and create jobs. That’s something everyone wants.”

HS2 will be a UK-wide economic spine, linking London, the West Midlands, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester with direct high speed services. The eastern leg will drive local economic growth by bringing the towns and cities of the Midlands and North closer together, as well as improving links to Scotland.

The total economic uplift of the eastern leg alone could be as much £717m. Freeing up capacity on other lines will improve regional and local rail services, and release capacity for freight, helping shift goods from the UK’s roads to the greener rail network.