HS2 – A Prime Minister’s Prerogative

The UK’s largest infrastructure programme has always been contentious, not least due to its route and plethora of environmental issues, but now it is being drawn into the Conservative Party Leadership race.

With two candidates left in the running to be the next Prime Minister there is more than just their views on Brexit that separate the two political rivals. Jeremy Hunt believes in HS2 and the benefits a project of this scale will bring to the UK economy, whereas Boris is more sceptical and has a view that the business case for HS2 can be improved and favours the connectivity in the West Midlands and the Northern Powerhouse.

Last month Mark Thurston, the CEO of HS2, made it clear that the business case for the programme was sound and urged policymakers “not to lose sight” of the benefits the scheme will bring to the UK economy.  It’s estimated that for every £1.00 invested a benefit of £2.30 will be realised, delivering an overall boost of £92bn to the UK economy.  He also stated that HS2 is more than an infrastructure programme – it is an economic programme.  By reducing the journey times to 45-50mins between Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, covering a metropolitan area of about 10 million people, HS2 will transform the economy in the North.

We should also not overlook the immediate impact a programme of this scale will have on the economy with over 30,000 jobs, 70% of which are outside London, and a further 2,000 apprenticeships being created during the design and construction phases.

The race for No.10 over the next four weeks will provide the opportunity for both candidates to clearly set out their views on the £56bn programme and hopefully set the direction and provide the certainty required for a major infrastructure scheme of this nature.With £4bn invested to date, and large swathes of land paid for and assembled, some might say that the “train has already left the station”. Whilst this shouldn’t automatically mean that HS2 should go ahead my view is that it is time for politicians to hold their nerve.  I believe that the facts speak from themselves and besides tinkering with the route and sequence of the programme the case has been made to move forward and deliver the economic boost the UK needs.

The future of HS2 will be decided later this year, so the next Prime Minister will have more than Brexit to deal with in their in their first 100 days in post!

Date: 31/05/2019
Category: Steve's Blog