CBI chief calls for HS2 talks to be restarted after Government U-turn

The director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said he hopes the conversation on HS2 is not over after the Government said last week that it is scaling back the infrastructure project.

Tony Danker’s comments came after ministers announced that the eastern leg of HS2 between the Midlands and Leeds will be cut, while a promised Northern Powerhouse Rail link between Leeds and Manchester will run partly on existing tracks.

He told Sky News: “Let’s not sugarcoat this – businesses in this part of the world (the North East of England) were disappointed with the news on rail, they’ve been upset by it.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

“I think what they are hoping for is that the Prime Minister, the Government, the Transport Secretary will get into a second round of conversations on it.

HS2

“And, interestingly, it has been less about connectivity to the South and much more about connectivity across the North, about all the cities in the North of England being connected to each other and economic activity."

Mr Danker said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “very little” about how to revive regional economies outside the South East of England.

Asked about the Government’s record on so-called “levelling up” in the lead-up to the CBI’s conference on Monday, Mr Danker told Sky News: “There has been lots of talk about the politics, about mayors and how our high streets look, and so on.

“What the Government hasn’t got on to yet is how do we get people better jobs, how do we get better skills, how do we make places like this (the North East) as much a hub of economic activity as the South?

Tony Danker

“Now that isn’t easy for Government to do, they can’t do it alone.

“But we’ve really heard very little from the Prime Minister and the Government yet on how to do that, and that’s what I hope we’ll talk about today.”