Tuesday 11 February 2020 12:49 pm

HS2: Businesses react to Boris Johnson's green light for controversial rail project

Business groups have welcomed the government’s decision to proceed with the controversial HS2 rail line.

The Prime Minister’s expected announcement comes after months of debate over whether the scheme should go ahead.

Read more: Boris Johnson to appoint minister to oversee HS2 as he gives rail link green light

This follows a report that the project could cost over £100bn, three times what was originally forecast.

BCC: ‘Great news for business’

Director general of the British Chambers of Commerce Dr Adam Marshall said: “The decision to proceed with HS2 was a long time coming – so it’s great news for business, investment and growth in many parts of the UK.

“It’s time to stop debating and start delivering the new capacity and connections that HS2 will bring to our communities and businesses.”

The City UK: ‘Infrastructure investment vital’

Miles Celic, CEI of The City UK, said:

While cost overruns must be minimised, investment into important public infrastructure projects such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is vital to ensure the continued growth and success of our thriving regional cities. These projects will significantly enhance national connectivity, increase capacity, and reduce travel time between key city hubs across the country.

Read more: HS2 is not just another transport project — it’s about the very bones of our economy.

It is hoped that by reducing travel times between London and Birmingham, then subsequently to Crewe, Manchester and Leeds through the “Y” shaped phase two, regional growth disparity can be alliviated.

However, critics have long argued the project is too expensive and does not deliver the economic rebalancing promised.

IEA: ‘Deeply disappointing’

in response to the expected announcement, head of transport at the Institute for Economic Affairs Dr Richard Wellings, said: “The decision to go ahead with HS2 is deeply disappointing.

“With the predicted costs ballooning to £106bn, the costs are now likely to exceed the benefits.”

ACE: ‘Common sense prevails’

Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), which represents large infrastructure firms, said: 

While HS2 provides plenty of lessons in how we plan, execute and communicate major infrastructure projects in the UK, today all in the industry will be delighted to have seen common sense finally prevail.  

This is great news for people across the Midlands and the North who will benefit from an economic boost by being better connected. Thanks to capacity being opened up across the network projects like Midlands Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail can become a reality. Finally, quicker links will encourage people off cars and planes, vital if society is to meet its Net Zero targets.

There has been enough discussion and delay. HS2 was first announced nearly a decade ago. We need to stop talking and get on with building the future.

Read more: HS2 Q&A: Where is the route, how much will it cost and when will it open?

Opponents of the scheme had instead called for the money to be spent on upgrades to existing routes and enhancements to smaller scale commuter services.

“This is going to suck investment out of commuter routes” said Adrian Quine, an independent rail expert.

The line has, however, enjoyed support from leaders in the Midlands and the North, with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham saying the project needs to be in conjunction with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

This is a separate programme to build new and existing lines from Liverpool in the west to Hull and Newcastle in the east.

The construction industry also welcomed the government’s decision.

‘Clouds lift over HS2’

“This announcement finally lifts a cloud that has been hanging over the UK construction sector” said Herve de Trogoff, Head of Project Advisory and Disuptes at Accuracy, an advisory firm specialising in major infrastructure projects.

Yesterday, the government also announced a funding for new bus routes in England and Wales in addition to resources for cycling projects across England.