Thanks for that welcome.
And thanks also to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport for organising this important conference.
Today is all about progress. About momentum. And seizing the opportunities this fantastic new railway will present.
So I’m delighted to be here. To talk about the next stage of the HS2 journey. And what that means for the whole of our country.
We’ve shown in recent years that we can build world class infrastructure. We delivered High Speed 1 and King’s Cross. Terminal 5 at Heathrow. And one of the best Olympic Games in history.
We’re building Crossrail and Thameslink together. And we’re rolling out the most ambitious national infrastructure programme for at least 50 years.
But of all the schemes we’re taking forward, HS2 is the biggest. Nothing else will provide Britain with the space it needs to grow and prosper. And nothing else will offer the same benefits for our cities and regions.
Today’s conference is timely, because HS2 is now entering a new phase. The fundamental case for the new line has been made. Providing the capacity and connectivity we’ll need. To meet rapidly rising demand. To relieve overcrowding. To free up space on the existing rail and road network. And support economic growth.
Now the debate has moved on. From whether we should build HS2, to how we should build it. And how the new railway will integrate with the rest of the transport system. That progress is crucial. Because in infrastructure terms, HS2 is just around the corner.
The bill’s been making excellent progress through Parliament. It is now moving through the committee stage, backed by overwhelming cross-party support. And subject to royal assent, construction on Phase 1 will start in just 3 years’ time.
A national scheme
That sends a message to the country that HS2 will be delivered. Phase One and Phase Two. On time and on budget. We’ve done a huge amount of work already. Consulting with industry and communities. Designing the route. Liaising with suppliers.
To get us to the stage where we can soon start procurement. The industry has been instrumental in helping us plan procurement.
For example in key areas like skills and apprenticeships. We’re now committed to at least 2,000 HS2 apprentices. More than double the number created by the Olympics and Crossrail together.
We’re investing in a National College for High Speed Rail based in Birmingham and Doncaster. To provide future generations of rail engineers. And also to provide training in environmental skills. Because HS2 is not just about digging tunnels and laying concrete.
And as momentum with the project builds, we’re also seeing a change in focus. Away from central government and towards the regions. That sends out another message to the country. The most important of all. That everyone has a stake in HS2.
Not just the government. Not just London. Not just rail commuters. Not just cities with HS2 stations. And indeed, not just this present generation.
It’s vital that people see the big picture. One which will capture the imagination of the British public. Because this is about the whole of Britain. And about leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Of course, it’s a privilege to be a transport minister at a time like this. When we’re making the biggest improvement to our railway since Queen Victoria was on the throne. And when, God willing, I get to travel on HS2 for the first time, I’ll be hugely proud of what we all achieved.
Just as much as the current main rail network, that was built in the 19th Century is still delivering today. HS2 will still be a mainstay of our railway long into the future.
And what’s so inspiring now is that we’re seeing people grasp the potential. With partnerships embracing HS2 and taking the project forward. Local authorities engaging with businesses, other transport providers, passengers, and communities. So they’re ready to exploit the once in a lifetime opportunities that are opening up.
We’ve made clear from the beginning that HS2 will rebalance our economic geography. With the north and the Midlands expected to receive at least double the economic benefits of the south.
We want cities to control their own destinies. With HS2 locally led and designed to fit in the local context. So every HS2 station becomes a hub for growth and jobs. That’s why last summer we created the HS2 Growth Taskforce. To help advise us on the best way forward.
Its report earlier this year made clear the importance of making the right decisions now. To prepare cities for the coming of high speed rail.
Among the key recommendations, the Taskforce urged cities to develop HS2 growth strategies. We strongly back the Taskforce’s call for local leadership. Cities are best placed to drive this process themselves. And take advantage of what is an unparalleled opportunity for regeneration.
King’s Cross/St Pancras has shown what’s possible. We want to see every city on the line take full advantage.
In Birmingham, for example, the Local Enterprise Partnership has begun the process of developing its own HS2 growth strategy. The government is providing £2.5 million to speed up this work.
Birmingham has also launched the Curzon Urban Regeneration Company to maximise the benefits of HS2.
The company will lead a programme that will ultimately create 14,000 jobs, provide space for 4,000 new homes, and contribute up to £1.3 billion a year to the local economy.
Growth strategies will help ensure that local developments and investments are aligned with HS2, and that benefits are spread across the region.
Collaboration on a broader scale will drive further benefits. One such collaboration is Midlands Connect.
A partnership between Midlands Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities working with Network Rail, the Highways Agency, and businesses.
The partnership will help the Midlands get the most from high speed rail. Integrating the new line with the rest of the transport system. And improving connectivity right across the country.
The development of HS2 coincides with a much wider devolution away from Whitehall, to the regions. We want to give cities and regions more control of transport investment. And more power to devise and lead their own transport programmes.
The Chancellor reiterated the importance of local leadership in his Northern powerhouse speech in Manchester earlier this year. In response, Manchester joined together with four other cities to produce the One north report. Which has proposed a £15 billion road and rail plan to connect with HS2.
Subsequently, we’ve announced plans to devolve more powers to Manchester. So like London, it has its own Mayor. And responsibility for funding, developing and delivering its own transport strategy.
We’ve created a formal body which will work with local authorities and other stakeholders so the north can speak with one voice. So rather than having 20 different transport plans like today. The north would have one united, integrated plan. Like TfL in London, which has a transport vision stretching to 2050.
This is genuine devolution. Harnessing the potential and transforming the prospects of a massive region. So it can compete globally for jobs and investment. And so it can integrate HS2 into the fabric of the north.
What’s even more exciting is the potential for extending the high speed network. We’ve already announced that we’re looking at HS3.
A high speed rail link connecting some of the north’s great cities, from Liverpool through to Hull. Which could cut the journey time between Leeds and Manchester to between 26 and 34 minutes.
We’ve also asked Sir David Higgins to analyse how HS2 could unlock the potential for growth in Scotland.
So the message is clear. HS2 is a national project in the national interest. But it’s planning and co-ordination at local levels that will ultimately make it succeed.
The HS2 Growth Taskforce’s report was called Get ready for a reason.
We have to get ready today.
To attract new companies – and billions of pounds of investment – to areas around high speed stations. To link HS2 with other local transport services. To market and promote the new line in innovative ways. To engage with local businesses. And to involve as many people as possible in the project.
Particularly youngsters, who stand to benefit the most.
HS2 won’t just be a fantastic new railway.
It will also be a catalyst for change. So let’s be ambitious. And let’s make High Speed 2 transformational.
For our communities, our cities, and our country.