HS2 Leeds depot: Driving more than just trains

Source: RTM Aug/Sept 2018

In July, the government confirmed Leeds as the site of the new HS2 eastern leg rolling stock depot. Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) board member, explains how her region is ready to maximise the opportunities that arise from this momentous decision.

The decision to locate the HS2 rolling stock depot in the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone is a very welcome step in ensuring the north of England sees significant benefits from the wider high-speed rail venture.

Firstly, it unlocks the potential of the University of Leeds’ new Institute for High Speed Rail. This will train and develop engineers to feed industry and is a dedicated centre for high-speed rail technologies and system integration – the first of its kind in the UK.

Secondly, the choice of depot location is emblematic of our determination to ensure HS2 paves the way for wider economic opportunities in the Leeds City Region. HS2 has transformative potential for our economy, and together we are ready to maximise all of the opportunities and benefits which arise from it.

In transport terms, HS2 must be part of a fast, reliable network for people and freight, which connects seamlessly with Northern Powerhouse Rail, regional services, and local transport. But HS2 is about much more than that, and through the HS2 Growth Strategy, the council and WYCA have set out precisely how high-speed rail can deliver much more.

It is expected to contribute to the creation of 300,000 jobs through improved transport connections via a remodelled Leeds station, accelerate regeneration schemes, and become a focal point for light and high-speed rail skills.

It will be a catalyst for economic development that will benefit all communities. It also means more high-value jobs and businesses expanding out of the capital, sharing the benefits of growth.

This is the vision we will deliver, together, with commitment from all sides – including Leeds City Council, WYCA, our universities, HS2 Ltd, Network Rail and the DfT.

This ‘complete system’ approach is also how the University of Leeds has designed its new institute. It will tackle high-speed rail planning, design, construction and manufacturing, creating an unrivalled centre of excellence.

Including a high-speed railway infrastructure and vehicle system test facility, it will optimise the efficiency, performance and safety of high-speed rail – from foundations, track and traction systems to braking, energy harvesting, sensor technology and digital systems.

The institute, and no doubt HS2 as well, will be ably supported by existing areas of individual rail expertise, including the Network Rail Campus in York, the National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster, and the Institute of Railway Research at the University of Huddersfield.

The location of both the rolling stock depot and the University of Leeds institute within the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone reinforces the area as one of the most strategic employment locations in the UK, perfectly placed at junction 45 of the M1 but also only a short distance from Leeds city centre. 

This has already delivered hundreds of new jobs for local people in logistics and manufacturing, but the area is now expected to become a key focus for the high-speed rail sector, creating additional investment and, initially, 125 highly skilled jobs – with training opportunities from entry-level apprenticeships to post-graduate. All parties look forward to agreeing the details as swiftly as possible to ensure they are consistent with the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone and to provide certainty for businesses. This will help to drive economic growth not only for the city, but also the wider city region.

All of this adds up to mean the location of the depot will not only ensure Leeds sees immediate benefits when HS2 arrives, but that Yorkshire becomes a thriving hub for training the next generation of world-class engineers that HS2 and other major projects will need for the future.


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