The High Speed Rail Industry Leaders annual conference assembled 200 representatives at the Leeds College of Music from across industry, local and national government, local economic partnerships and  transport organisations.

The conference highlighted the ambitious plans that the city of Leeds has, including the station doubling in size and a commercial expansion programme at the heart of city. The conference focused on HS2’s economic potential including leveraging in business investment, securing housing and commercial developments, delivering complementary transport programmes, harnessing the skills and jobs uplift, and potential to sell the UK’s expertise globally.

Opening the event, Nisrine Chartouny, HSRIL Director said:

“HS2 can ignite regional economies all across the UK and there is an open door for investment in towns and cities, spurred by HS2. Constructing the railway line is one part, but so are the plans needed to secure investment that HS2 stimulates. Places around the world with high speed rail have shown how this can be done. We need to do the same and harness our global window into the world.”

The conference also highlighted HS2 as a “social enabler” through hugely better connections, bringing communities and areas together. The example of HS1 was highlighted, which has delivered many more benefits than envisaged, including an increase in tourism to Kent.

Former Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, and architect of the HS2 project, speaking at the event, said: “I have three children. A son, a daughter & HS2.” He confirmed his baby was “on track” and called on the scheme to address past poor transport planning and critically said it should not be seen just as a railway but a “big social and economic programme”.

The DfT HS2 representative, Nick Bisson confirmed that to realise the ambitions for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) means using HS2, with the debate not about one or the other but how both can be designed together to be genuinely transformative for both programmes.