New light rail networks key to spreading the benefits of HS2. Keolis report provides a blueprint for a ‘hub and spoke’ approach to regional transport.

Investment in new, modern tram networks will help UK regions maximise the economic benefits of HS2, argues a new report launched by leading figures from the transport industry.

The Integrated Cities report features contributions from shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood MP, think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and music industry mogul Pete Waterman, chairman of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The report argues that light rail systems, like those in Manchester and Sheffield, are a crucial element of a ‘hub and spoke’ model of regional transport, which the UK must implement if HS2 is to bring benefits to areas beyond its main station hubs.

Writing in the report, Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, says: “If HS2’s benefits are to be maximised beyond its major hubs, it must be well connected into local networks. More must be done to boost urban connectivity and light rail is key.”

Pete Waterman argues that more integrated thinking at a regional level is required to ensure that local authorities are not competing with each other when they could be collaborating.

He says: “While many towns are lobbying for their own HS2 stations, they would be better served by a dedicated link into their city centres. It’s better to pipe HS2 into strategically positioned hubs and then build rapid connectivity between these outlying towns.”

In her contribution, Lilian Greenwood MP argues that the plans for HS2 could improve the business case for regional light rail investment, bringing with it wider regenerative benefits.

She says: “As Lord Adonis’ Growth Review found, a lack of investment in transport infrastructure is one of the main barriers to achieving regionally-balanced economic growth. Light rail can regenerate deprived areas and deliver environmental benefits – Croydon’s Tramlink attracted retail investment to an area poorly served by the underground and the Salford Quays extension to the Manchester Metrolink helped create 3,000 jobs.”

The report was compiled by public transport operator Keolis, which believes that the UK can learn from best practice across Europe in integrating high speed rail with regional transport networks.

Alistair Gordon, Keolis UK’s chief executive, said: “HS2 simply can’t exist in isolation. To spread its economic benefits, we need to run parallel investments to expand and develop complementary transport networks that will plug it into the towns and cities which surround it.

“Evidence from the Continent shows that high speed and light rail are intrinsic to one another’s success and to see the local benefits of light rail, we need only look at the transformational schemes being delivered in Nottingham and Manchester. With HS2 on the horizon it’s critical that city regions have the powers, freedom and alliances to plan ahead for a better connected and more integrated country.”

The full Integrated Cities report also features contributions from Roger Harrison, chairman of Tramlink Nottingham, Peter Cushing, Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink director, and Sir Mike Hodgkinson chairman of Keolis UK.

Keolis is the world’s largest operator of light rail networks. In the UK it operates the Nottingham Express Transit (NET) light rail network in addition to four rail franchises. In July it secured the franchise to operate and maintain the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London.