Businesses heard first hand last week (Fri 20 June) about the pros and cons of the proposal to build a high-speed rail line between London and the North.
Nearly 100 company delegates from Leeds, Bradford and York gathered to quiz the Chief Executives of those three Council areas, plus a representative from HS2.
The West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce lunch debated whether or not HS2 will deliver tangible economic benefits to Yorkshire, and specifically to Bradford where the event was held. Contributions from the floor congratulated the Chamber for putting on the event, and the panellists for their contributions, saying they felt much better informed afterwards than they did beforehand.
The scheme continues to divide businesses as it does the country generally, and the event demonstrated that with impassioned questions and comments from attendees. With Leeds and York Council bosses, Tom Riordan and Kersten England, both speaking in favour of HS2, it was left to Bradford’s top civil servant Tony Reeves to spell out the risks and concerns. His call to ensure wider connectivity across the existing network and guaranteed economic benefits were backed by the rest of the panel, which was chaired by Bradford Chamber President, Paul Mackie.
Earlier concerns about cost and benefit were repeated, while there is general consensus that capacity needs to be addressed. HS2 Board chairman Sir David Higgins recently included reference to the former ‘Wortley Curve’ in his ‘HS2 Plus’ report – a line that would give greater London connections to Bradford without going through Leeds. Delegates backed Tony Reeves’ desire to see an hourly Bradford-London service.
Tom Riordan claimed that anyone denying the economic benefits of HS2 was deluding themselves. Paul Mackie said that the event had been organised to provide more information to businesses to help them develop a view on the scheme. Transport is consistently in the top three of business concerns according to West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, according to surveys, meetings and other evidence-gathering.