Meeting with Sir David Higgins
A memorable meeting for a number of reasons: David Higgins seems to be a calm, bright and perceptive man and hugely influential (which proves the point about how important transport is for driving the economy). The little report: Rebalancing Britian: from HS2 toward a national transport strategy is a good read and understandable explanation. He started by explaining that HS2 is not stand-alone but has an important role in the rest of the network and transport system. The budget is in place for Phase One (to Birmingham). At the moment they are working on where the “hubs” will go on the “Y” to Manchester and Leeds, looking at Crewe (and then coming into Manchester via the airport which he described as “the international airport for the north”) and somewhere around Derby/Nottingham for the East Midlands. Question about Sheffield (Meadowhall ?) and the station at Leeds. Taking decisions on this will take about a year. HS2 will be a spine connecting into the east and west coats lines, with 3 dedicated spurs to connect the 3 cities. My comments were about the importance of electrification across the north and good rolling stock – so that the quality of our rail system is at least equal to that in the south.
And then he talked about HS3 (and bigger than that – up to Newcastle), and freight as well as passenger. Questions were asked about improving the M62 (but I’d place the emphasis on rail).
He emphasised the importance of a Transport Strategy: We need a Grand Plan – roads and railways last for 50yrs and more. Transport for the North is a good opportunity to speak with one voice and therefore have more influence, otherwise we lose focus. He likened it to Council Highways Engineers deciding in the 1930’s that this country needed motorways (and the M1 was built 30 yrs later !).
The HS2 Regeneration company is being set up. The Independent Transport Commission report is coming out this week. This will study the impact of High Speed rail on economic development and the need for transport infrastructure (hence the need for a Strategy)
At the same time, there are negotiations between the Combined Authority and government about the form that devolution will take for the Region. Developing and significantly improving the transport system is an important component in this.
Cllr Janet Battye
LibDem rep on WY Combined Authority