Thank you for that introduction and welcome.
And good afternoon everyone.
It’s great to be back in Leeds again.
Four months after my last official visit:
- to see progress at Kirkstall Forge rail station
- to meet with city leaders from the north and Midlands
- and to make my first speech since the general election
If you think it’s significant that I’m making it here, in Leeds, on the eastern leg of HS2, and in the north, then you’d be absolutely right.
And if you think it’s a sign of intent that my themes today (1 June 2015) are growth, infrastructure, and HS2, you’d also be right.
I’m here, delivering this speech, because the economy and infrastructure were the top 2 issues in our manifesto.
Nothing is more important to this government than a healthy economy which benefits all working people across the country.
And a balanced economy, which closes the gap between north and south.
That means ensuring the recovery reaches all parts of the United Kingdom.
From north to south and east to west.
And we won’t waste a moment getting on with the task.
On a personal note, it’s a real privilege to be standing in front of you as Secretary of State for Transport.
Before I took on this job in 2012, there had been 7 Transport Secretaries in 7 years.
When you’re in charge of long-term infrastructure projects, such a high turnover can be destabilising.
So I’m excited to be heading up the DfT in this new Parliament.
Growth and investment
Three weeks ago, the British people gave us a clear mandate. To finish the job of fixing our economy, paying off our debts, modernising our infrastructure and securing a better future for all.
They also voted for £70 billion of capital investment in transport that we will deliver over the next 5 years.
All in all, an unprecedented commitment.
But the right commitment.
Because we believe in the power of transport to change things.
Power of transport
Decent transport doesn’t just help people get around.
It helps them get on.
It opens up opportunity.
It provides access to education and jobs.
It connects businesses with customers - whether your market is Bradford, Birmingham or Brazil.
And it gives firms a competitive edge.
Great transport created the first Northern Powerhouse nearly 2 centuries ago.
And it can create the second one today.
We’ve already begun closing the decades-old economic gap between south and north.
Employment in the north is up by over 150,000 in just one year.
Unemployment has fallen by more than 20%.
And per person, the north is growing faster than London.
I’m proud of that.
And I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past 5 years.
But our job today is to look forward.
To create a foundation for long-term growth.
And transport is a vital part of our plans.
We’ll invest £13 billion in northern transport over this Parliament.
With major improvements to the A1, M62, M1. And A555.
We’re building the Northern Hub.
Introducing new trains on the East Coast Mainline, built in Newton Aycliffe.
And adding capacity for 44 million more rail passengers.
And we are getting rid of Pacers as well.
Local decision making
But it’s not just about the amount of money.
It’s also about how we invest.
So the right people can make the right decisions.
That’s why we’re devolving power away from Whitehall and into the hands of cities.
We created Transport for the North (TfN) to bring cities together.
From Liverpool to Hull and from Sheffield to Newcastle.
So the north can shape its own future.
Transport for the North is a genuine partnership – and I want to thank you all for your work so far.
By the autumn, Transport for the North will have a new independent chair.
Who will truly speak on behalf of the north with one voice.
That means a shared vision for trains and buses.
For passengers using public transport.
For reducing road congestion, and speeding up links to ports and airports.
By working with TfN, we’ll upgrade the road network.
Maybe a new road tunnel under the Peak District.
And major upgrades to other east-west routes.
We’ll help develop a new freight strategy for the north.
And we’ll work towards an integrated, trans-north smart ticketing system.
It’s an exciting programme that will bring massive benefits to the region.
So I’m pleased that we’ve got James Wharton here today, MP for Stockton South, and minister responsible for Northern Powerhouse within the Department for Communities and Local Government.
I’m also delighted that Andrew Jones is here, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, who’s handling Northern Powerhouse at the DfT.
High speed rail
As I’ve said, the general election was a massive vote of confidence in HS2.
Big transport projects have always faced resistance.
Back in the 1830s, the first legislation to build a new rail line from London to Birmingham was defeated.
Thankfully, the line was eventually built – and today it’s called the West Coast Mainline.
People questioned the M25.
The Channel Tunnel.
So controversy needn’t be a sign that the decisions you’ve taken are wrong.
And that’s certainly the case with HS2.
HS2 is now a manifesto commitment of a government with a Commons majority.
It also has wide cross party support.
Support that many of you here today helped secure.
So I want to thank you.
You’ve been absolutely central to the success of the project so far.
Thankfully, the northern electorate didn’t listen to those who tried to play politics with HS2 during the election campaign.
Neither did the people of the west and east Midlands.
So the argument’s been won.
HS2 will be built.
The full ‘Y’ network.
From London to Birmingham.
And Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
With construction starting in just 2 years.
HS2 will change the transport architecture of the north.
But it will also change the economic architecture.
Seven out of ten jobs created will be outside London.
With the north and Midlands gaining at least double the benefits of the south.
In fact, those benefits are already starting to happen.
HSBC’s decision to move its retail bank headquarters from London to Birmingham is just one example.
What’s next for HS2
Meanwhile the Hybrid Bill for HS2 Phase One is making good progress.
After being carried over from the last Parliament, it was re-presented last week, and is Bill number 1 for the new session.
The Parliamentary Select Committee looking at that first Bill resumes shortly.
But increasingly, and perhaps importantly, the spotlight is spreading to Phase Two.
I want to see if we can bring HS2 to Crewe faster than planned, subject to further analysis and a decision on the preferred route.
I’m determined to deliver the benefits to the north as fast as possible.
So I’ll prepare a dedicated Hybrid Bill in this Parliament.
And we’re not forgetting the eastern leg either.
We’ll make our Phase Two announcements this autumn.
We’re looking at ways of using the HS2 line to introduce faster regional services.
And at the case for speeding up construction of the Sheffield to Leeds section.
HS2 will allow us to reorganise and improve commuter routes across Yorkshire.
There will also be more room for local trains and rail freight, relieving congestion on Yorkshire’s roads.
And we’re moving forward with plans for a new high speed rail links, running right across the north.
From Liverpool in the west, to Hull in the east.
Which will slash journey times.
Provide a substantial boost to capacity.
And help bind the north together as a single, powerful economic force.
So my message to you today is this.
We know the transport infrastructure across the north is not nearly good enough for a region with such incredible potential.
Now we have the chance to put it right.
Not by sitting in London and telling you what to do.
But by giving you the choices to shape your own future.
This is the best opportunity in well over a century to level the playing field between north and south.
Not by dragging London down.
But by firing up the rest of the country.
The east and west Midlands.
And the new Northern Powerhouse.
With transport connections that match the very best in Europe.
So let’s get the message out there.
Start preparing now.
Because HS2 is coming.
It’s coming to Leeds.
To south Yorkshire.
And the east Midlands.
The time to debate the various merits of high speed rail is over.
Now it’s time to get our cities ready.
Ready for construction.
Ready for investment and regeneration.
And ready to embrace a new age of opportunity.