Businesses laud HS2 green light

The UK government gave the go-ahead on Tuesday afternoon to the construction of HS2, the high-speed rail link designed eventually to link London with Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester at an estimated cost of £106 billion.

HS2 coverage UK

HS2 Ltd.

Although opposed by some amid cost and environmental concerns, business leaders have long urged construction of the project, which is seen as a vital stimulus to economic growth, particularly in the Midlands and northern England.

UK Prime Minister promises regional road, rail and bus infrastructure projects

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced HS2 would go ahead in the House of Commons as he promised a flurry of other road, rail and bus infrastructure initiatives in the regions of the UK, including integrated rail projects across the north of England to link Manchester and Leeds."We face a historic choice," said Mr Johnson. "We can try to get by with the existing route between north and south ...or we can make the decision, no matter how difficult and controversial, that will deliver prosperity to every part of the country”.Mr Johnson said a minister would be appointed with a full-time job to oversee HS2, whose first leg between London and Birmingham - cutting the journey time from the current one hour 21 minutes to 52 minutes - by 2030. The links to Manchester and Leeds are due to be built by 2040.

British Chambers of Commerce: HS2 great news for business

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the decision to press ahead with HS2 had been a long time coming but, even so, represented "great news for businesses, investment and growth in many parts of the UK".He added: “It's time to stop debating and start delivering the new capacity and connections that HS2 will bring to our communities and businesses."

Confederation of British Industry: will deliver the governmennt's promise of an "infrastructure revolution' for the North, Midlands and beyond"

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, said the decision to back HS2 "is exactly the sort of bold, decisive action required to inject confidence in the economy. It sends the right signal around the world that the UK is open for business".He said the decision also showed the government's commitment to levelling up the nations and regions of the UK, because the project would bring jobs, new homes, skills and investment to the areas of the country that needed them most."Once built, HS2 will bring much-needed capacity to our railways and help to realise the government's promise of an 'infrastructure revolution' for the North, Midlands and beyond," Mr Fell said.

Institute of Directors: businesses leaders will be holding the government to their promises 

Jonathan Geldart, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said, “The HS2 saga has not been a good advert for the UK's ability to build major infrastructure, but now the decision has been made, many businesses in the Midlands and North will just want to see the government get on and build it.“Splitting the project into more manageable chunks makes political sense, but it also has a degree of business-sense, provided the right controls are in place. We encourage the government to put strong governance frameworks in place to ensure management is properly scrutinised.“Improving the rest of the transport network in the North, and making sure HS2 connects up, is just as important. Businesses leaders will be holding the government to their promises on Northern Powerhouse rail and local transport.”
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UK Steel: maximise the opportunities to use high-quality UK steel products for infrastructure projects

Gareth Stace, director-general of the industry group UK Steel, also welcomed the go-ahead but called on the government "to ensure that the benefits of this multi-billion pound project are felt in all four corners of the United Kingdom, by maximising the opportunities to use high-quality UK steel products"."The use of UK-made steel for HS2 would support over 2,000 jobs and deliver £1.5 billion to the UK economy – ensuring the benefits of this project are not just felt along the route, but in steel communities across the UK," he said.

Institute of Economic Affairs: costs of HS2 will likely exceed the benefits

However, Richard Wellings, head of transport at free-market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: "The decision to go ahead with HS2 is deeply disappointing."With the predicted costs ballooning to £106 billion, the costs are now likely to exceed the benefits. And the project is highly unlikely to transform the North in the ways that have been promised."Investment in alternative schemes - such as incremental improvements to existing infrastructure in northern towns and cities - would deliver far larger economic gains."The additional announcement of £5 billion spending on buses and cycle routes is another poor use of taxpayers' money. Many bus services outside London are already running almost empty and the new ones are unlikely to attract enough passengers to be economically viable."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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