Region’s leaders frustrated by Government review of HS2

Business leaders have reacted with frustration after the Government launched a review into the cost-effectiveness of HS2.

The study, which will last only a matter of weeks, will examine whether the transformational rail project should go ahead, either in its current form or at all.

Despite phase one, London-Birmingham, already having received Royal Assent that could still be stopped in its tracks. Other parts, including the line through the East Midlands, and the phases heading north to Manchester and Leeds could be altered or scrapped.

The review, led by the former Crossrail chairman Douglas Oakervee, will look at how much the link will cost as well as deliverability and scope and report back to the Government in the autumn.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is part of the panel that is assisting.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

“That is why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

“Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”

Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect

Regional transport body Midlands Connect said it would be “submitting compelling evidence to the review concerning the benefits of HS2 to the whole of the Midlands”.

Its director  Maria Machancoses said: “The massive benefits of HS2 to the Midlands are already being felt. Although a review must rightly scrutinise the project’s deliverability, benefits and costs, we must not lose sight of the fact that HS2 will transform our transport network for the next century. Scrapping it or de-scoping it would be a disaster for the Midlands and the whole country.

“We’re pleased that West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is on the review panel to promote the interests of the region. But it’s vital that the East Midlands isn’t ignored in this process either.”

Nottingham City Council leader Cllr David Mellen compared the apparent reluctance to invest in transport infrastructure in the region with the relative lack of similar scrutiny on the “well over budget, severely delayed” Crossrail project.

He said: “I can understand the need to scutinise projects funded by the public purse, but it’s disappointing to see the case for phase 2b questioned in the scope of this review.

“We had understood there were strong indications from Government that they were committed to proceeding with the whole route, so if they make U-turn on that it would be a huge betrayal of people and businesses in the Midlands and the North who stand to reap huge benefits from this vital investment.”

CBI director of infrastructure Tom Thackray pointed to the long discussions and analysis that have already taken place in shaping the project and to the investment benefits that have already been seen.

He said: “The business message on HS2 is clear-cut – back it, build it, benefit from it. The debate has gone round the houses too many times.

“While it’s always helpful to review major projects like HS2 to ensure that value for money is delivered, the business case is well known.

“The approval of HS2 Phase One led to record levels of Foreign Direct Investment in the West Midlands, with more than 7,000 new jobs created in Birmingham as a direct result of HS2, and over 100,000 more. We have seen and are continuing to see similar benefits right across the proposed route.”

HS2 Phase Two