The HS2 Growth Taskforce has published an update on plans for the development of the controversial high speed rail link to the north of England.
The report, High Speed 2: Get Ready, argues that HS2 will be a force for economic rebalancing, “kick-starting growth and regeneration in our cities”.
The project to extend a high speed rail link into the north of the country will cost £50bn and has caused controversy over its choice of route and stopping points along the way.
Opponents to HS2 fundamentally disagree with its potential to disperse economic development and activity more more evenly across the country.
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said: “Simply building a fast train to London is not going to regenerate the areas in the North and Midlands which need it.
“It’s always been clear that creating regeneration would take many more billions than the current £50bn price tag of HS2.”
Focusing on the communities where HS2 will stop, the new report from the HS2 Growth Taskforce calls for structured local development plans from the areas around HS2 stations.
In order to “supercharge” growth around stations, the report recommends that a minister be appointed specially to coordinate these local development plans.
“As was so successful with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we want a dedicated minister to be appointed to lead regeneration and development around HS2 at the national level,” said the taskforce.
It recommends local authorities create “delivery bodies” to design growth strategies for each station on the route and integrate them into local transport networks.
Pro HS2 representatives say that the train will help narrow the economic divide between London and the regions, making northern cities more competitive and raising their global profile.
Commenting on the potential benefits of the high speed rail project Nicola Walker, director for business environment at the CBI said: “HS2 offers an opportunity to regenerate local economies, provide jobs and boost growth across communities in the UK.”
She backed the call for government to work together with local authorities “to ensure the potential of this project is realised”.
Ms Walker continued: “Lord Deighton’s taskforce rightly challenges local areas to get their HS2 growth strategies in place.
“It is essential these plans complement and enhance other local initiatives, such as the Local Enterprise Partnerships’ Strategic Economic Plans and Local Authorities’ development plans.”