BCC responds to National Infrastructure Commission’s Rail Needs Assessment

15th December 2020

Commenting on the National Infrastructure Commission’s Rail Needs Assessment, released today, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce Jane Gratton said:

Improving rail capacity, connectivity and journey times between cities in the North and Midlands is essential to unlock economic growth, create jobs and level up.

But to maximise investment, regeneration and growth, the HS2 network must be also be delivered in full, as promised. The government must urgently provide business with the confidence and certainty that this crucial infrastructure investment will be delivered.

Matt Jackson, President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, echoed the call for certainty on infrastructure investment:

“HS2 is central to Sheffield City Region’s Integrated Rail Plan. We cannot deliver the step change in rail connectivity our region needs without HS2. Politicians in Whitehall seem to be forgetting that greatly improved connectivity between Sheffield and Leeds is as important, if not more important than between Sheffield and London and it cannot be delivered without HS2."

“If we want to level up the north, then connect the north. It really is that simple. To do anything less will be to short-change millions of people and thousands upon thousands of businesses.”

Scott Knowle, CEO of East Midlands Chambers, said: 

“HS2 is the single-biggest transport infrastructure project in a generation and represents a huge opportunity for businesses, with the potential to unlock economic benefits of more than £4bn for the East Midlands and part of Yorkshire.  

“By connecting the region with a first-class UK and Europe-wide rail network, it will bring enormous opportunities to local firms and make the East Midlands a much more attractive location for inward investment. 

“However, these benefits for both the region and country will only be realised once it is delivered in full. That means the Eastern Leg being built exactly as the Government has promised all along, rather than a diluted version of this, and at pace. 

“We will have major capacity issues on the Midland Main Line within the next two decades unless something is done to upgrade the rail network, so this needs to be addressed urgently. HS2 would achieve this, while also offering much-needed improvements in connectivity between the region’s towns and cities.  

“However, this is so much more than just a railway line. It’s been great to see many parts of the East Midlands come together to commit to a blueprint for the future of the region that will bring economic growth and jobs. We have been very clear on our vision, which is built on the idea that the Toton hub station becomes a destination in its own right – a magnet for inward investment and an industrial hub that unlocks further development opportunities. 

“The NIC’s report is therefore very concerning as it doesn’t take any of the regional growth plans into account and we absolutely do not accept its findings.  

“Any suggestion that involves stopping HS2 at East Midlands Parkway would not work for the region, and has already been considered and dismissed from a feasibility perspective years ago. 

“When the Government makes its decision about which option to include in its Integrated Rail Plan, it will have a clear choice between an exciting vision created by a region that’s focused on long-term growth and prosperity – one that will shape how we want our country to look as we leave the UK-EU transition period – and another that applies rough methodology, offers short-term logic and ultimately doesn’t deliver the same benefits.  

“We have a plan that’s ready to go and it’s time the Government delivered on promises it has made so many times over the past 12 months since it firmly committed to the scheme – and in the years that preceded it.  

“The East Midlands currently has the lowest transport spend per capita – £245 per head – of any region in the UK, receiving just 51% of the £483 UK average. The region is in desperate need of investment and finally putting any questions to bed on the HS2 Eastern Leg would go some way to proving the Government is serious about delivering on the ‘levelling-up’ agenda – a point on which it has repeatedly banged the drum without any serious proof of what this actually means. 

“To do anything else would be a huge mistake, critically undermining the entire project and blowing a huge hole in Government rhetoric.” 

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