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The North-South divide is the phrase used to describe the cultural, economic, and social differences between the North and South of England. The South is perceived as prosperous, economically affluent and the home of opportunity; whereas, the North is viewed as a region struggling to recover from the loss of a large section of its industries in the 1980s.
In the past, The Economist has argued that a major contributing factor to the North-South divide is the migration of young professionals from the North to the South.
Taking that into consideration, a means of bridging the North-South divide is already in motion, in the form of the largest and most ambitious infrastructure project the UK has ever seen: High Speed 2 (HS2).
Inspired by the Japanese Shinkansen high-speed railway, HS2 is designed to directly connect the North to the Midlands and the South, through the cities of: London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. The line is set to be built in a Y configuration with London at the bottom, Birmingham in the middle, Leeds at the top right, and Manchester the top left.
To be completed in 2 phases, HS2 will transform the UK’s landscape. Phase 1 connects London to Birmingham and the West Midlands, with services expected to commence in 2026. Whilst, Phase 2 which links the West Midlands to Leeds and Manchester opens between 2030 and 2033.
Served by 2 fleets of trains, only one will operate on the main high-speed line. The other fleet is to run on a mix of high-speed and slower tracks, extending the project’s reach to: Carlisle, York, Chesterfield, Sheffield, and Liverpool.
Once finished HS2 will connect 10 of the UK’s largest cities along a line of 25 stations, linking around 30 million people across the country. Providing high-capacity, fast, and reliable services; HS2 trains will shrink journey times and run as frequently as 14 times per hour.
HS2 is key to unlocking the North’s potential and driving young professionals back to the region. Improving connections between the North and the rest of the country, will make it easier for professionals to commute or relocate, and for businesses to expand outside of the capital and the South East.
Rising house prices and rents continue to make London and its surrounding areas increasingly unaffordable to professionals, businesses, and investors. In contrast the North, offers both lower property sale prices and rents, with the typical home costing around £190,000-£200,000 and the average rent of £662 per calendar month. Lower costs mean that professionals can enjoy a greater quality of life, businesses a happier workforce, and investors higher rental yields.
Business confidence in the North has increased dramatically since the announcement of HS2, with northern cities receiving a significant rise in commercial investment, specifically: Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield.
Wider regeneration projects that sit alongside HS2 play no small part in the attraction of the North for both potential residents and businesses. History-making developments that will heighten the region’s presence on the world stage have already gained substantial media coverage, Including: Newcastle’s Hadrian’s Tower, and ventures in Manchester and Leeds. HS2 supports local regeneration projects, adding to the existing and future identity of the cities.
A catalyst for change, HS2 is a way of balancing the economic geography of the UK by creating new opportunities through improved connections. The North has as many prospects as the South, and with the aid of HS2 is headed to further success.
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