Leeds rail institute promises multi-billion economic boost

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A new rail research institute being built by Leeds University could deliver a multibillion boost to the UK economy, according to a new report.

The study, provided by Leeds-based consultancy Genecon, says the Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration could have a dramatic economic impact by improving the overall efficiency of UK rail. Using data from the Office for Road and Rail, Genecon claims that just a one per cent improvement in rail operations could help add £3bn to the UK economy by 2050.

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“The Institute has the potential to deliver real benefits for Yorkshire, the Northern Powerhouse and the wider UK,” said David Tuck, managing director of Genecon. “It symbolises the region’s increasing role as an international centre for advanced research and its contribution to national economic growth and productivity.

“By improving rail network efficiency, the new Institute has a critical role to play in accelerating UK productivity growth, as well as acting as a catalyst to rail industry and related investment in and around the Leeds Enterprise Zone.”

The £80m rail centre will be sited next to the Leeds Enterprise Zone at Gateway 45, on the edge of the M1 motorway. Its remit will be to investigate rail systems as an integrated whole, measuring how train, track, power systems and signals interact as a unified system. According to Genecon’s analysis, every pound invested by the public sector in the project could generate a return of between £5 and almost £7. The report did not take into account the potential positive or negative effects of HS2, which is currently undergoing an independent review.

“The economic analysis demonstrates the huge benefits the Institute will bring not only to the Leeds City Region but also the UK economy,” said Prof Peter Woodward, director of the Institute.

“From the outset, we will be working with the rail industry on the big challenges they face: how they develop, build and operate a system that will be called up on to move increasing numbers of people around the UK in a way that is efficient and sustainable. We will help the rail industry introduce new ideas and technologies more quickly and at reduced cost. That will add to rail industry efficiency.”