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Cities and regions need to seize HS2 opportunities, says think tank

Words: Laura Edgar
HS2 train

A HS2 Cities Forum should be created, says a research project by think tank Independent Transport Commission (ITC).

High Speed Rail & Connected Cities also says that British cities and regions need to “seize the opportunity” to maximise value from “this once-in-a-generation public infrastructure investment project”.

The project, said ITC, aimed to investigate how HS2 will shape the country’s cities and regions, with a number of workshops held throughout 2015. It also considered high-speed rail in Europe.

Launched today (16 May) in Leeds, the report reviews current proposals for each of the city regions that will be served by HS2 and sets out guidance on how to “enhance the process of urban changed” by maximising the social and economic benefits that stem from developing an integrated transport system, according to ITC.

It identifies principles that should be used when planning local transport and redevelopment in order to capture value from HS2, stating that it is clear from looking at past infrastructure investments that the construction of new infrastructure is “insufficient in itself to create value unless it is serving somewhere that people want to live and work”.

Capturing the full value of infrastructure investment requires “not only greater interconnectivity within each region but also between city regions and amongst the Northern Powerhouse and the ‘Midlands Engine’”.

High Speed Rail & Connected Cities outlines a number of recommendations for national and local government, including:

  • The creation of an HS2 Cities Forum to share proposals and knowledge.

  • An independent review of lessons learned from phase one of HS2 in order to help best plan phase two of the project.

  • A collaborative programme to understand the future of the UK’s urban economy, particularly investigating how the relationships between the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and London will develop over the next 50 years.

  • Support for a range of field trips that will stimulate learning from best practice and international collaboration on other high-speed rail project.

John Worthington MBE, ITC commissioner and chairman of ITC's high-speed rail panel, said: "It is clear from 30 years of experience across Europe that high-speed rail can be a catalyst for economic growth, but seldom the driver.

“The ITC has drawn insights from existing experience to inform and inspire the cities served by HS2 to capture the opportunity and achieve each city's distinctive aspirations while improving livelihoods.”

Welcoming the report, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said it is “crucial” that cities and regions along the route take full advantage and develop plans that attract investment, because HS2 "has the potential to generate jobs, stimulate growth and provide the vital capacity and increased connectivity to help rebalance our economy”.

The report can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | HS2