The future growth of cities which have been on the rise for a number of years rests heavily on the government's ability to provide excellent transport links.
Whether it's the Northern Powerhouse or the Midlands Engine, growth in regional cities that have already been starting to prosper across England rest heavily on how well connected these areas can be in years to come.
Cheaper startup prices, growth of digital markets, better facilities and the chance to secure funding are just a few of the reasons Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds have become among the fastest growing economies in the UK over the last few years. But for this trend to continue, strong transport links that allow easier movement between the UK's major cities is a vital ingredient.
This is something that the government has looked to address with the introduction of its high-speed rail link HS2, a two-decade long, £55.7 billion project which is set to link each of the business hubs with the traditional centre of growth, London, and each other.
The government this week announced new plans for the project, which it said is "on time and on budget". Revealing the contractors who would be working on a number of the lines between Manchester and Birmingham as it handed out £6.6 billion worth of contracts, Westminster also unveiled the final route for the high-speed link.
It will connect all of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield with London, drastically cutting travel times between the cities and improving the connectivity they enjoy.
The first HS2 trains are expected to travel between London and Birmingham in 2026, with the links in phase two, connecting Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, expected to be opened in 2033. There will be significant benefits in terms of travel time, with the length of journeys between Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester set to be cut to 57 minutes and 41 minutes respectively; less than half what they are now.
Such easy links encourage nationwide collaboration, widespread movement of skills and mobility in businesses that can only aid growth and have a huge impact on productivity across the board for years to come, benefiting the whole of the UK's economy.
HS2 to boost business productivity
One of the main boosts to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine that will come from the completion of the rail line is that it will make operating as a business in either of these economic regions an easier, and by extension more attractive, prospect.
Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect, spoke of these benefits, saying that the arrival of the high-speed rail link will allow companies and people to be far better connected with manufacturers, markets and places. In turn, this will make it more attractive for businesses to move their operations to new cities.
If it's cheaper to operate than in the traditional centre of London, and it's just as easy to run the business, then there's no reason why a raft of new companies will not follow the early adopters of the last five years and start to head north, boosting economies across the regional cities.
Businesses that may work with other companies, clients and suppliers in London, but would benefit from the more cost-effective commercial property in the north, for example, may be far more inclined to make a move away from the capital and into the Northern Powerhouse if they know they can still have easy access to London on a regular basis when they need it.
Overall, the BBC reports, HS2 is set to have a huge impact on the UK. With an eventual boost to the economy of £15 billion per year, the network is set to make businesses increasingly stronger. It will also help to create more than 16,000 jobs in the construction process, and countless others in the years after as companies see the benefits of working in the regions.
It's also expected that the rail network will have a significant impact on the environment. The government has previously stated that the launch of HS2 will mean there will be 500,000 fewer lorry journeys on the UK's roads each and every day. There should also be fewer domestic flights between London and the rest of the UK as business leaders enjoy the benefits of being able to reach the north from London in a little over an hour by train.
Although the government is still battling some opposition to the high-speed link, it insists that in the long run, the arrival of HS2 can only be a good thing for business, and creating a better economy for the whole of the UK.
To find out more about the business benefits of operating in the north of England, visit our blog for more information.
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