The confirmation that the HS2 project is to go ahead can help create jobs, protect industry, upgrade skills and enable the construction of new housing, business leaders have said.
Following the publication of the long-awaited Government review into the project by Douglas Oakervee, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the project to connect Yorkshire and Manchester with Birmingham and London will go ahead as planned, leading to widespread praise from the region’s business community.
Dr Jonathan Owens, logistics expert from the University of Salford Business School, said the announcement represented a huge opportunity for the UK steel industry, saying that it could secure the future of British Steel at Scunthorpe.
The rail upgrade is set to require some 170 tonnes of steel, which the academic said could be produced domestically.
“It would make sense for this to be the plant to be the main supplier for the project. “Buying raw material from overseas is a waste of time, money and effort, as well as increasing the supply chain cost by up to 30 per cent.
“Currently Jingye is stalling on the deal they negotiated in November last year. “However, now that HS2 is confirmed perhaps the deal looks more appealing. HS2 is a huge investment for the UK and keeping the investment within the UK’s supply chain as much as possible is important.
“HS2 is a challenging project in several ways, and it would be useful to understand and learn from phase one how these problems can be overcome, for example purchasing of property/land and routing of the controlling cables through cities etc.”
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Another area of industry that could benefit is logistics, with ParcelHero saying the green light for HS2 could mean more parcels being moved by rail, taking traffic off of the road network.
David Jinks, its head of consumer services, said: “Though the project has been criticised on cost and environmental grounds, it will mean the bulk of express passenger services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) can be transferred to the new railway. “Consumers are pressing for more sustainable delivery choices, and getting packages and parcels off the road and onto the rail is a very environmentally friendly option. HS2 undoubtedly clears the way for more post office mailings to be switched from road and back on track.
“It’s also possible that if access to rail freight services is made easier, cheaper and more reliable as a result of all the new capacity made available by HS2, Britain’s parcel couriers could incorporate rail services, particularly for longer distance trunking services to Scotland, for example.”
Britain’s biggest business organisation the CBI, a long-standing supporter of the scheme, said that the announcement sent a message to overseas markets that the the UK was “open for business”.
Matthew Fell, its, 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.”
There was praise in Yorkshire too for the fact that the rail route would continue to the region, something that had been called into question during the Oakervee Review. Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11 Board and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “The confirmation that HS2 will be built in full is a very welcome step in helping to transform the North’s critical infrastructure. HS2 is a major part of ongoing efforts to rebalance the national economy and will unlock further opportunities for the North to become a key driver for UK growth.
“In particular we welcome the commitment to delivering the eastern leg, which is critical to ensuring the full benefits of the scheme are felt across the North. We understand the need to review how this is delivered and have made the point previously that one option is to build from the North.
“The time for talking is over. We all have a stake in the successful delivery of an integrated, modern transport system, fit for 21st century Britain. Now is the time for us all to pull together and get behind this transformative scheme to ensure that its benefits are felt in the towns across the North.”