LEADERS of the country’s biggest companies are losing faith in the planned High Speed 2 railway, a poll out yesterday showed, in spite of a renewed push by the government to convince businesses that the project will benefit the economy.
A poll of 34 of the FTSE 100’s chairmen found that 49 per cent believe HS2 should not be built, compared to 33 per cent who support the scheme.
More than a third have changed their opinion for the worse in the last year, and one described the £42.6bn project as “look[ing] increasingly lunatic”, according to a survey by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann.
By comparison, 83 per cent are in favour of a new panel to prioritise the country’s infrastructure projects.
“There’s clearly a shift towards a view that this is not a good project,” said Korn Ferry partner Dominic Schofield. “The fact that this is being put across by some of Britain’s biggest business leaders shows that the government has a job to do in convincing companies on the business benefits.”
The findings come as the Department for Transport sets out its latest case for HS2, which will run from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
The DfT is today expected to publish research claiming that if HS2 is not built, passengers will face 14 years of rail replacement buses as Network Rail patches up the existing infrastructure. It will also give more data on the looming capacity squeeze on the West Coast Main Line.
The Public Accounts Committee and the Treasury Committee have criticised previous cost-benefit analysis of the proposed route for lacking detail.
Meanwhile, 10 chambers of commerce in northern England have today signed a letter to the Prime Minister supporting the project. “It is indisputable that the scheme is costly,” wrote James Ramsbotham, author of the letter. “But so was the roll-out of the railway system over 100 years ago, which was the last significant investment in the UK rail network.”