Praise for “bold” HS2 decision

Latest News Tue, Feb 11, 2020 3:21 PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link.

The first phase of the route will travel between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds and following a lengthy review and despite spiralling costs and mounting criticism Mr Johnson acknowledged it had been a difficult decision but it was right to proceed.

The PM will now appoint a full-time minister to oversee the project and criticised the HS2 company's management of the scheme.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said: "The Prime Minister’s 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 U.K. is open for business.

“HS2 shows the government’s commitment to levelling up the nations and regions of the UK. The project will bring jobs, new homes, skills and investment to the areas of the country that need 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.

“The time for debate over HS2 is over and the time for delivery is now.”

British Chambers of Commerce Director General Dr Adam Marshall said although the confirmation of the new rail link was a “long time coming”, the decision represented great news for businesses, 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,” he continued.

“While progress on the first phase of HS2 will be celebrated, the government’s decision to review parts of the route beyond Birmingham will unsettle business communities in the Midlands and the North. The case for many of the transformative transport, regeneration and investment projects planned in the North and Midlands depends on the full project going ahead.

“Business communities will continue to campaign for delivery of the full HS2 route. If ministers want to achieve their aim to ‘level up’, they must not let down some of the areas that have given HS2 their full-throated support.”

Jobs are set to peak in 2022 at 30,000 to build the new high speed line, says the UK's construction training body.

Research analysis found that phases one and two of the project will generate substantial job opportunities in construction, says CITB. Skills in particular demand will be construction trade supervisors, plant operatives, steel erectors, labourers, civil engineers, civil engineering operatives and construction project managers.

CITB Policy Director, Steve Radley, said: “(This) decision will increase the demand for a range of skills in construction but the certainty will give the industry the confidence to invest in apprenticeships and upskilling its workforce. And the opportunity to work a game-changing project will help construction to attract the next generation of workers.”

Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Industry will applaud this bold, sensible and pragmatic decision which will help change the country for the better. For too long poor regional connectivity and, the UK’s creaking infrastructure, have been major contributors to the regional imbalance between the North and South, as well as the continuing poor productivity performance which urgently needs lifting.

“However, this was never an ‘either or’ decision favouring one project at the expense of other infrastructure investments including better East West links, especially across the Pennines. Government now has a once in a generation opportunity to develop a fully integrated transport plan for the whole country which it should grab with both hands.”

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