No major project has ever been subjected to as much scrutiny as HS2, and this is right and proper given the public money being spent. But having had leading experts analyse HS2 for the last six months, the Government has rightly concluded that going ahead with the project is essential for their vision of ‘levelling up’ Britain and delivering a transformation of regional economies across the country.
With the decision taken, the industry’s focus must now be on delivering every penny of that public investment as efficiently as possible and wringing every benefit from the project. Now the debate on whether to build HS2 has been resolved, we can focus on working together to make the most of it. From Japan to France, China to Spain, high speed rail has transformed countries across the globe. Now we invite the whole country to work together on the shared national endeavour of using high speed rail to transform Britain too.
Following this decision, the next formal step in HS2’s progress is for the Government to issue Notice to Proceed (NTP), which would enable major construction works for Phase 1 of the project to begin. HSRG is calling for Notice to Proceed to be issued without any further delay.
The HSR Group has always supported the delivery of HS2 in full as the first step towards the longer-term creation of a national high speed rail network reaching all parts of Britain. We view the key benefits of HS2 as including:
- HS2 will smash the North–South divide by transforming regional productivity – business connectivity improvements from HS2 range from 19–23% in the city regions of the North and Midlands, compared to only a 9% improvement for London.
- HS2 is transforming our cities right now – Deutsche Bank, HSBC UK and PwC have all chosen either to relocate or expand their presence in Birmingham, based on HS2 going there. With the future of the scheme now assured, we can expect similar in all other cities on the line of route.
- The benefits go far beyond just the cities on the line of route – Midlands Connect research shows that HS2 will free up enough space on the existing network to improve rail services for 73 stations across the country.
- HS2 allows Northern Powerhouse Rail to happen – the choice between them was always a false one, akin to suggesting that the M62 should be built but not the M1, and HS2 will provide 50% of the new lines needed by NPR. NPR services on two of the most important regional links (Liverpool to Manchester; and Leeds to Sheffield) will run on HS2 infrastructure.
- HS2 is essential to net zero emissions and tackling the climate emergency – as the transport sector undertakes an irreversible shift towards net zero emission mobility, a high capacity fully electrified railway such as HS2 is essential to making this happen and delivering vital modal shift away from aviation and car travel.
- HS2 will create large numbers of new jobs – latest figures show that HS2 is already supporting approximately 11,000 jobs, is set to support 15,000 jobs by year end and 30,000 jobs at peak construction and train building activity, as well as 2,000 apprentices.
- HS2 can now be a catalyst for the ‘infrastructure revolution’ the government seeks – with this extensive investment in the skills of major project delivery, HS2 can be the catalyst to transform the infrastructure of the nation, fit for the 21st century.