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HS2 takes root in Darlington: new report evidences how HS2 is already embedded in local plans for growth in areas beyond the HS2 line

Press Statement Issued by HS2 Ltd 

A report produced in collaboration with Darlington Borough Council and eight other regional and local authorities has been published today by David Higgins, Chairman of HS2. Changing Britain: HS2 taking root outlines how years before the first train runs, high speed rail is becoming a pivotal part of local plans to drive business growth, create jobs, secure investment and increase connectivity.

Darlington and its Tees Valley neighbours have been quick to recognise the benefits that high speed rail will deliver.  In its economic plan and devolution deal, the Combined Authority has identified the High Speed Hub as one of four priorities for the Tees Valley and work is already underway with regional partners to develop a masterplan to capitalise on the arrival of HS2 services.

Plans for the ‘Darlington Station Growth Hub’, include new platforms and buildings at the station to allow more long distance and local rail services to stop at the town, providing better connectivity. The proposal will see around £100 million of public and private investment to develop the station as an essential part of the town’s heart. It would also see up to 30,000 sq m of new business space and 1,500 potential new homes. The investment will help to better integrate the station with Central Park and the town centre.

Cllr Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council and Chair of the Tees Valley Combined Authority Transport Committee, comments:

“Our Growth Hub plans are driven by the needs of the community, but made achievable by HS2. The HS2 Growth Hub is all about realising the economic potential of Darlington and the Tees Valley region – a plan for jobs, homes and better transport links.”

As is the case for Darlington, the other eight regional and local authorities included in the Changing Britain 2: HS2 taking root report are also reliant on HS2 for the delivery of many aspects of their local economy plans. Integrating HS2 services into the existing transport network will spread the benefits as widely as possible across the Tees Valley and neighbouring regions.

HS2 trains will join the East Coast Mainline to the south of York and continue up to York, Darlington and Newcastle, cutting journey times between Darlington and Birmingham down to one hour and 29 minutes (1.29) and Darlington and London to one hour and 53 minutes (1.52). The reduction in journey times is seen as ‘transformational’ with travel to London achievable in under two hours (for the first time) and an hour shaved off the current journey time to Birmingham.

David Higgins, HS2 Chairman comments,

“Two years ago, local leaders asked me to make sure that HS2 was fully integrated into the existing transport and local economies. It’s an aspiration we’ve sought to realise, but even I underestimated how far that that principle would take us. Much of the early focus on HS2 has been on journey times to London. However, as the Changing Britain: HS2 taking root report and Darlington’s work proves, it is the inter-regional benefits and early planning from Councils and Local Authorities to harness these which will transform areas such as Darlington and the wider Tees Valley region in the longer term.”

Darlington’s early planning to capitalise on the broader benefits of HS2 mirrors that of locations on the Phase one part of the HS2 route from London to Birmingham. Last month it was announced that almost £1bn of investment is being committed to redevelop a part of Birmingham that is set to be transformed by HS2. The investment in Birmingham is expected to create 4,000 new homes, 36,000 new jobs and 600,000 sqm of commercial floor space. These catalytic benefits have been recognised by the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling as a much needed boost to our regional economies.

David Robinson, CEO of PD Ports and a member of Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said:

 “HS2 can be transformational for economy of the Tees Valley. HS2 will put Darlington and the Tees Valley at the heart of a dynamic new economic corridor stretching from the North East to the Midlands and to international markets beyond.

“It will provide critical capacity on the UK rail network and also ensure the Tees Valley is at the very heart of growth in the UK for both passenger and freight markets. We will continue to focus on improving East-West rail connectivity as well, in order to provide a ‘world-class’ network for rail users.

Darlington Borough Council has commissioned its own research which estimates that the HS2 Growth Hub plan could, in the long-term, provide over 3,000 new jobs and a £130 million a year economic boost across the Tees Valley City Region.

Both Tees Valley Unlimited and the Tees Valley Combined Authority have been supporting Transport for the North and Rail North in developing the wider longer term strategic plan for rail services in the North of England, in which HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (sometimes referred to as HS3) will play a key role in achieving plans for economic growth, more jobs and higher prosperity.