Cancelling the controversial HS2 rail project would cost the UK investment and jobs and result in slower rail services and congested roads, according to a group of industry leaders.
In a report published on Tuesday, the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group argued that the project, which has faced criticism for its cost and environmental impact, is essential to the future success of the UK.
The report has warned that if HS2 is scrapped, it is unlikely that the funding allocated to it will be reinvested in other infrastructure projects. The proposed line will run from London to Birmingham by 2026 and to Manchester and Leeds by 2033.
It estimated that just £2 billion of the £42.6 billion provisionally put aside for HS2 would be made available to the Department for Transport, resulting in congested transport networks in the future.
This, the leaders group said, means that a similar project would eventually have to be built anyway at an even higher cost.
The report goes on to suggest that shelving HS2 would put investors and businesses off of the UK, while turning the country into “an inefficient and increasingly unpopular country in which to do business”.
The “best opportunity available to regenerate the cities of the Midlands and the north” would be also missed and over 20,000 jobs associated with the development of the route would be lost, the report claimed.
Jim Steer, a founding member of the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group, said the report gives evidence that “walking away from HS2 is a risk that Britain just cannot afford to take”.
Meanwhile Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of UK rail systems at Siemens, added, “HS2 is about so much more than reducing journey times between London and Birmingham. It is about a once in a generation, transformational opportunity to reconnect Britain and revitalise our busy rail network.
“The advantages of this cannot be overstated and this report points to some of those. That’s why we, along with other business leaders and major employers, fully support HS2 and call on Britain to push forward in developing a world-class high-speed network and take advantage of the benefits it will bring to our nation.”
However, HS2’s opponents remain unconvinced.
“This is blatantly transparent self-interest from near-panicked businesses and individuals who stand to make millions if not billions of pounds from a project claimed to address a problem which exists only in the imagination of HS2 gravy-trainists”, said Richard Houghton of the opposition group HS2 Action Alliance.
He added, “If HS2 is cancelled, and the government of the day suddenly says that the HS2 budget cannot be re-distributed even in part to enhance regional transport issues, then there is something very odd about what was either a budget that never existed – or a budget that was never intended to benefit the regions in the first place.”